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Living History Makes Student Travel to Washington DC and Williamsburg Memorable

By Howard Clemens

Watching history come alive can be a great way to engage student travel groups when visiting the Washington D.C. area. Living history programs are character reenactments from Revolutionary, Colonial and Civil War eras of American history. Attending one will give historically accurate information garnered directly from texts. Living history programs challenge students to take a deeper look at the characters that created the historical accounts read in the classroom today.

Mount Vernon, a Treasure of American History, Inhabited by Characters
What sorts of characters become known throughout time? Leaders do. Mount Vernon is a well-preserved site of one of the favorite founding fathers, George Washington and his second wife, Mary. The Mount Vernon property is teeming with life. Also known as Ferry Farm, this estate is populated with many of the characters of living history, including the proprietors, George and Mary Washington themselves. Students can inhabit different parts of the estate and be exposed to different viewpoints, from viewing slave quarters, to the working farm and mill, to the interior of Mount Vernon itself.

Recreating Mount Vernon as a Working Colonial Estate
Today, students might refer to a property like Mount Vernon as ‘sustainable living.’ Everything needed to feed, clothe and house the many inhabitants and visitors of the estate was cultivated here. A tour of Mount Vernon that includes living history presentations could easily take half a day. Students groups will watch and listen as re-enactors make wool and refine locally grown flax into fiber and show how horses treading wheat to remove seeds. Student tour groups can listen in to a conversation of the overseer, the blacksmith, or George Washington himself. Living history makes learning more interactive and gives students an entirely new perspective of history.

Social Studies and history teachers may want to combine a tour of Washington D.C. and Mount Vernon with a few days in Williamsburg, Virginia. Give student groups the opportunity for total immersion in the 18th Century time period while they tour the former capital of Virginia with Living History around every corner.

The 18th Century Capital of the Colonies: Williamsburg, VA
Colonial Williamsburg is the largest living history museum in the world. In the 1920s, John D. Rockefeller invested in the languishing historical buildings in Williamsburg. He hired the best artisans and restoration experts to rebuild the town correctly. Today, the former 18th Century capital of Virginia is the perfect setting for students to experience living history.

Imagine walking the streets of Williamsburg and being immersed into the 18th Century style of living. Students will see many of Colonial Williamsburg’s character actors passing in the cobblestone streets in 18th Century garb. The old buildings all look the same as they did then – made of red brick and mortar. The shops include a blacksmith, candle maker, and a silversmith, among others. Inside some of the Colonial homes, the servants are busy with everyday tasks. Students will watch and listen and may ask questions. As they walk through, they will see servants working in the gardens or kitchens of an authentic Colonial home, clothed in the garb of the 18th Century and using implements and foods harvested there and common in that era.

For another type of interactive experience, group leaders may opt to prearrange a lunch or dinner at an authentic tavern in Colonial Williamsburg.

Each of the characters encountered on the streets of Williamsburg speaks in Colonial tongue and has a story to tell about their place in time. The Court House and the Armory have been restored to their former character.

Student groups may watch living history programs in the courthouse specially designed for learning about Colonial law in Virginia, through the eyes of those who were judged. Or, take a student group on an evening tour of the “Ghosts Among Us” or “Pirates Amongst Us” to stimulate their imagination and recollection of the way history unfolded for some.

Jamestown Settlement
Students will love visiting Jamestown Settlement – another full immersion into the 17th Century. Just down the road from Colonial Williamsburg, situated on the James River, is where the first colonists landed in 1607. Board the replicas of the three ships, see a Powhatan village as it was in the 17th Century, and enter the replica of James Fort, the original home of new settlers in this country. Students will hear character actors speak from a variety of perspectives, including: common sailors, maids, Indians, and even the King James I.

Learning about history through books and film can be a great foundation for a student trip to Washington D.C. and Williamsburg. Living history programs provide a more intense and focused investigation into history, one that engages the student and makes a definite mark upon memory. After experiencing the characters of history the memory is attached to a real place.

“The willing suspension of disbelief” is required for a full (and fun) immersion into Early American history. The character actors do an excellent job of bringing all of the props, setting and the stories to life. Teachers can augment the experiential learning by assigning follow-up writing exercises or creating quizzes for students to observe and answer questions while on tour.

For more information about a living history tour of Washington D.C., Mount Vernon and Williamsburg, request a quote.

Student Trip to Baltimore to Celebrate the Bicentennial of the War of 1812

Many students of American history read about the War of 1812 as part of their studies of Nineteenth Century history.  This naval war impacted the burgeoning United States and the port cities along the East Coast, as well as cities inland, along major waterways.

This year, Baltimore, Maryland is the focus of the national launch of the Bicentennial of the War of 1812 with the Star-Spangled Sailabration from June 13-19, 2012.  This kickoff celebration begins in Baltimore Harbor where visitors can see a spectacular display of U.S., British and Canadian naval vessels and tall ships from around the world. Audiences will also see an air show featuring the Blue Angels.

Teachers and trip leaders are encouraged to combine a visit to Washington D.C. with a visit to Baltimore to experience the Bicentennial of the War of 1812.   Even if the student group is not available to travel from June 13-19, they may still experience part of the Bicentennial celebration. Baltimore and other cities throughout the U.S and Canada affected by the War of 1812 will continue to stage events dedicated to the remembrance of the War of 1812 through 2014.

Following is a brief outline of the six major sites in Baltimore and Washington D.C. that reinforce studies of the War of 1812. In addition to Baltimore, Maryland, and Washington D.C. other states participating in this event are:  Alabama, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania.  Student travel groups destined for any of these locations can also tie their trip into War of 1812 sites in these locations.

Baltimore, Maryland, War of 1812 Sites of Interest

Fort McHenry
Many Americans and representatives felt an attack on Baltimore was imminent after a declaration of war against the British. So, Fort McHenry was prepared with fortifications and soldiers to defend the city against the British. This site is well-preserved and maintained by the National Park Service.  Fort McHenry is known as the star fort, because it was constructed in the shape of a five-pointed star.  The fort was attacked by British cannon fire and survived the battle.

The Star Spangled Banner Flag House
Students will want to tour the house where Mary Pickersgill sewed the flag that flew over Fort McHenry during the battle of 1814, when the Fort was under assault by the British.  Pickersgill lived here with her daughter Caroline and her mother, Rebecca Young, who started the flag-making business during the Revolutionary War period in Philadelphia.  Student groups can tour the home that is decorated with 19th century furniture and fixtures.  Frequent living history presentations are also staged here, so students may encounter Mary Pickersgill, Rebecca Young or Grace Wisher, the African-American apprentice who lived and worked there.  These living history actresses will narrate their story in the first person to help make the process of creating the flag come alive.

Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum
Students can see a special exhibition for the Bicentennial of the War of 1812 here:  “Farmers, Patriots and Traitors:  Southern Maryland and the War of 1812.”  At the time of the War of 1812, the U.S. had no organized naval fleet. So, in June of 1814, Commodore Joshua Barney pulled together a fleet of eighteen gun boats, barges and sloops to take on the British Navy. This unofficial fleet of ships engaged in battle with the British Navy twice in June of 1814. The battles took place at the intersection of the Patuxent River and St. Leonard Creek, near the shores of Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum.  They are known as the largest naval engagement in the history of Maryland, and helped turned the tides of the War of 1812 in favor of the U.S.

Washington, D.C. War of 1812 Sites of Interest

Smithsonian Museum
Students can see the actual flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to write the National Anthem in the The Star- Spangled Banner exhibition at the National Museum of American History.  The flag is 200 years old and measures 30 x 34 feet. It is housed in an environmentally controlled chamber to preserve it and visitors can interact with the artifact through a tactile image.

White House
Student groups may visit the White House as part of their scheduled tour.   James Madison was President of the United States when he asked Congress to declare war on June 1, 1812. Teachers can prepare classes for this study by taking an in-depth look at Madison’s presidency, and his reasons for going to war, prior to the trip.

In addition to these War of 1812 sites, student groups can learn more about other historical  periods by visiting the Baltimore and/or Washington D.C. area. Popular destinations include the U.S. Capitol Building, the monuments tour, Mount Vernon and more. Check the events schedule on The Official war of 1812 Bicentennial Website to see if a student trip schedule will coincide with other public events.

To request a quote for a class trip to Baltimore and Washington D.C. visit http://www.educationaltravelconsultants.com.

Components of a Successful Student Trip to Washington D.C. from a Teacher’s Perspective

Over the past 25 years I have worked with many K-12 teachers to organize student trips to Washington D.C. This spring I received a thank you letter from Shawn Tierney, a teacher at Santa Rita High School in Tucson, Arizona, detailing specific aspects of a trip to Washington D.C. that made it a “resounding success.”

I was happy to receive this detailed letter from Mr. Tierney. Parts of his commentary are included in this article. Tierney reflects upon the important aspects of student travel that help teachers and student tour companies to create a safe, rewarding educational experience for all involved.

Travel can be an eye opening educational experience. For many student travelers, it may even be their first time on an airplane or visiting a large urban area. In this particular instance, a class traveled from Arizona to Washington D.C. – which is a significant distance. Some students may only make this trip once in a lifetime.

In order for a student trip to be a memorable and pleasurable learning experience, coordination among a variety of individuals is necessary. A qualified student travel company will hire the most capable professionals. Student trips are influenced by: tour escorts, bus drivers, restaurant owners and managers, hotel managers, security guards, administrators and docents at various destinations, and the educational travel company. Of course teachers, students and chaperons are key to an excellent trip as well. When everyone works together in a synchronized way the trip is bound to be successful.

Starting the Trip on the Right Foot: Ground Transportation to the Phoenix Airport
Trip planning is a key foundation for success. The less a teacher has to worry about the details, the more he or she can focus on the educational objectives of the trip. Shawn Tierney mentioned he was relieved his selected ground transportation company, Mountain View Tours, has “bus drivers that were accessible and ready when we needed ground transportation in Arizona. It was as comforting to see the white bus turning into the school parking lot early Saturday morning, as it was to receive a call from the bus driver in Phoenix who was ready to pick us up at the airline terminal upon our return.”

Tour guides & Teachers Can Make or Break a Student Trip
When a tour guide and a teacher work well together, a school trip is sure to go smoothly. Kelly Everett was the licensed Washington D.C. tour guide assigned to work with Santa Rita High School students and tour leaders. Tierney says, “She was informative, proactive, and flexible. She made suggestions due to weather and traffic so that students had a thorough visit to Washington D.C.” When visiting any destination, adaptability and problem solving can make all of the difference. Tierney commented that, “the high point of the trip was when we were able to meet with our Congressional District Representative on the steps of the Capitol within 24 hours of the Health Care Reform Bill being passed. This required an overhaul of the schedule, which Kelly handled with composure and enthusiasm.” The experience of actually seeing the Congressional District representative following the passing of this historical bill was certainly a rare and rewarding experience for the school group. Tierney recalled, “the looks on the faces of our graduating seniors who saw, many for the first time, the interior of the Capitol, made it all worthwhile.”


Experienced Bus Drivers in Washington D.C. Save Time by Averting Hassles and Hang-ups

Bus drivers with a thorough knowledge of the streets of Washington D.C. as well as appropriate places to load and unload large groups when entering museums, government buildings, and other destinations, can save time on student trips. Shawn Tierney is a Washington D.C. native, so he knows full well the pitfalls and delays that might await any large school group or individual when winding through the streets of the city. According to Tierney, the bus driver, Bob Pearl, had, “knowledge of the maze of streets in D.C. This was critical in making many of our scheduled appointments. He did an excellent job of managing the one way streets and constant construction and security restrictions.” The bus driver was also “always mindful for the safety of the students.” The fact that the bus driver and the tour guide worked well together created a smooth trip.

Santa Rita High School students went on a four day, three night trip to Washington D.C. that included: Arlington National Cemetery, Ford’s Theatre, Smithsonian American and Natural History Museum, a visit to the Supreme Court as well as the U.S. Capitol, the U.S. Navy Memorial, Washington National Cathedral, the Holocaust Museum, Smithsonian Air & Space Museum, and Mount Vernon.

Even though Santa Rita High School’s itinerary was full — there are even more worthwhile educational destinations to see in Washington D.C. For the March 2011 trip, Tierney plans to add another night so more destinations may be included. He also indicated he’d start planning in August 2010. Planning a student trip to Washington D.C. six months to one year in advance is always wise, especially if teachers want student groups to gain admission to the Capitol, White House, or Pentagon when visiting.

To review an itinerary or speak to an educational travel professional about the costs or details of taking a student trip to Washington D.C. email info@educationaltravelconsultants.com or Request a Quote by taking a moment to fill out a brief, online questionnaire.

Hotel Security On Class Trips

Class trips to destinations such as Washington D.C., New York City, Orlando and other desirable cities are the perfect opportunity for young people to learn and have fun with their peers, teachers and parents. For many parents sending their children on class trips, educational travel can also create anxiety over the unknown. Educational travel companies need to take steps to minimize parents’ worries by implementing measures that make them feel secure in putting their trust in others. There are methods to ensure students’ safety.

I have been the owner of an educational tour company for over 25 years and I have had an opportunity to listen to parents’ concerns firsthand. I am also the father of several children myself, so it’s easy for me to empathize. Without proper oversight and planning, one of the main places where problems can occur on student trips is at the hotel. For this reason, Educational Travel Consultants has a standing policy and procedure to guarantee student security while staying at hotels.

I will outline several effective strategies for ensuring security on class trips while student groups are staying at hotels. If these measures are taken, there is less cause for concern.

Let’s face it, there is always a possibility something may happen while student groups are on tour. This is why Educational Travel Consultants carries an insurance policy on all student trips. In addition to insurance, I feel strongly that implementing hotel security measures is another way to make certain that students are supervised at all times. Students do not need to be tempted to leave the hotel where they are staying for points unknown, in urban areas that are unfamiliar to them.

Hotel Security Measures for Student Travel Groups

1. The choice of hotel is essential for security on class trips. My company only books student groups at hotels with enclosed hallways. It is easier to monitor students’ behavior and make certain they are not tempted to leave the premises in hotels with interior corridors.

2. Students need to have a curfew. An 11 p.m. curfew is standard on trips. If the group for some reason arrives at a hotel after 11 p.m. (which is rare) the curfew begins 30 minutes after arrival.

3. Though it adds an extra expense, a security guard can patrol the hotel hallways after curfew until morning. My company policy is to guarantee a guard on all student trips.

4. Security guards also tape student rooms at curfew. The teacher in charge may take disciplinary action if the tape is ripped or removed.

5. When curfew is imposed at 11 p.m. this means that students must turn televisions and music down, and be quiet. Noise and loud talking may disturb other guests and is not permitted. A teacher may request that lights go out at curfew and that no talking is permitted. In any case, if a student’s inappropriate behavior warrants it, this may mean expulsion from the trip, which will also have implications once the student is returned to school and home.

6. Security guards must have clear parameters to work within. When the guard arrives for duty at 11 p.m. he or she is instructed on any last minute room switches and briefed on seeking teachers and chaperones out. Security guards are not permitted to enter student rooms for any purpose. However, they are required to keep a log of all occurrences throughout the evening. The guard will not wake group leaders for minor disruptions – only if an emergency or problem which requires their input occurs.

If these security measures are taken on class trips, I find that problems can be eliminated before they even begin. Young people need to have clearly defined rules. Similar to the classroom, inappropriate behavior on class trips has serious consequences.

The majority of student groups I have worked with over the years have easily observed these rules and cooperated with teachers, chaperons, tour guides, and security guards. If everyone on the trip observes the guidelines set forth, then the entire group has peace of mind and a good night’s sleep so that they can fully enjoy the tours and attractions on the following day. To inquire about a class trip, just email info@educationaltravelconsultants.com or Request a Quote for your student trip.

Student Trips: Take the Virginia Presidents’ Tour or Add a Day to Washington D.C. Itinerary

Did you know some of the most prominent presidents, all founding fathers, lived in Virginia? Virginia was the seat of the colonial government and the place where the final battle of the American Revolutionary War took place at Yorktown. It’s no wonder that educated men and landholders who founded the nation lived and prospered during their time in Virginia.

Consider taking a student travel group on a themed tour of the plantations and estates of Virginia presidents. The Virginia presidents’ tour is an exciting way to present Early American presidents to students in social studies or history classes. Engage them in an active learning experience at some of the sites, such as Mount Vernon, where costumed interpreters/actors present history in short narratives.

On this educational tour, students may visit the dwellings of the following presidents, who lived in Virginia: George Washington’s home in Mount Vernon; Thomas Jefferson’s estate where he resided until his death: Monticello near Charlottesville; James Madison’s estate home, in Montpelier between Richmond and Charlottesville; and James Monroe’s former home at Ash Lawn-Highland, known simply as Highland during his time, is adjacent to Monticello in Charlottesville.

Mount Vernon: Estate of George Washington
Mount Vernon is just 16 miles from Washington D.C. George Washington’s plantation sits on the banks of the Potomac River. Student travel groups may tour the main mansion and the outbuildings on the property. A four-acre working farm is part of the tour and includes living history presentations. Student trips interested in the “National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets Tour” can learn about the filming of the movie at Mount Vernon and ways in which the basement was actually utilized during Washington’s time. If time allows, visit the The Donald W. Reynolds Museum and Education Center and the Ford Orientation Center to view some of the interactive exhibits.

Monticello: Thomas Jefferson’s Home
Student tour groups who travel to Monticello will come to understand one of the greatest figures in American history. Tour groups will see the mansion, designed (and redesigned) by Thomas Jefferson along with gardens and dependencies. Monticello is indeed a special place, where Jefferson’s legacy and his home and its contents are preserved and remembered. It is here that Thomas Jefferson’s epitaph reads “All my wishes end, where I hope my days will end, at Monticello.” Jefferson wanted to be remembered as author of the Constitution, father of the University of Virginia, and author of the statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom. Visit http://www.classroom.monticello.org for online educational materials to prepare for the student trip.

James Madison’s Mansion in Charlottesville
James Madison also resided near Charlottesville, at his mansion named Montpelier. Montepelier was recently restored. The plantation is 2,650 acres of gardens, grounds, walking trails and woods. Montepelier was built by James Madison, Sr. in 1764 and modified twice by James Madison Jr. to accommodate the numerous guests of state that would visit after he was elected President. In addition to James and Dolly Madison and their children, slaves and freedmen lived and worked at Montpelier until emancipation. Students will learn about the rich history of Montpelier, and view the growing collection of artifacts.

Learn About James Monroe’s Mansion in Charlottesville
Ash Lawn-Highland was James Monroe’s estate in Charlottesville and it is currently a museum as well as a 535-acre working farm, and a performing arts center. The Monroe estate is adjacent to Monticello. Jefferson was a lifelong friend of James Monroe. The Monroe family, which included his wife, Elizabeth, his son James Spence Monroe, and his daughter, Eliza lived at Highland estate for 24 years. James Monroe fought under George Washington at the Battle of Trenton and spent the cold winter at Valley Forge. He later distinguished himself as a diplomat to France, Britain, and Spain, and as the Secretary of State and Secretary of War for James Madison’s administration, during the War of 1812. Monroe was instrumental in negotiating a final treaty for the Louisiana Purchase in 1803 and is known for the Monroe Doctrine. Student groups who visit Ash Lawn-Highland will see that it is still being partially used as a residence. Monroe bequeathed his estate to his alma mater, the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg whose alumni use it as a retreat even today.

A tour of Washington D.C. can be greatly enhanced with an itinerary that includes the homes of Virginia presidents. These intimate spaces illustrate what it might have been like to live in Early America during a time when democracy was at its formative stages. To request a quote on a student tour of Washington D.C. that includes a visit to the presidential homes in Virginia email info@educationaltravelconsultants.com or Request a quote.

Add a Tour of Virginia Battlefields to a Washington D.C. Student Trip

Student trips headed to Washington D.C. to tour may want to consider adding a visit to some Civil War battlefields in nearby Virginia to their itinerary. Many of the critical battles of the Civil War were fought in Virginia, with the ultimate goal being the capture of Richmond by Union forces, since it was the Confederate Capitol.

The furthest of the battlefields I suggest is Petersburg — a three-hour bus ride away. Appomattox, Shenandoah, Fredericksburg and Richmond are approximately two hours or less from Washington D.C.

A student trip can also be built solely around the Civil War. Or, it may include a more comprehensive look at history, beginning with the settlement of Jamestown and Williamsburg as Colonial capitals, and the early days of the Revolutionary War.

Shenandoah: New Market Battlefield and State Historical Park
The site of one of the Confederate victories, New Market Battlefield was the place where early in the war, young cadets from Virginia Military Institute fought and won a victory for the South. Student trips may visit a 19th Century farm, tour the Hall of Valor Civil War Museum, and learn about the actual cadets who made a difference that day.

Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania Civil War Battlefields
These sites are within a forty-five minute drive from Williamsburg, so student trip organizers may want to consider a visit to Colonial Williamsburg and/or Jamestown and Yorktown while visiting the area. The Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park and the Manassas National Battlefield Park are important components to any study of the Civil War. Manassas is the Virginia town where The Battle of Bull Run was fought. One of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War, the Battle of Fredericksburg, was fought there and was considered a great victory for General Robert E. Lee. Chatham Manor is located at Fredericksburg and was at one time a hospital and Union headquarters. Three other battles fought between 1862-64 include: Battle of Chancellorsville, Battle of Wilderness, and Battle of Spotsylvania.

Petersburg: the Siege Ending the Civil War
The historic battle where General Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant’s armies faced off for the final battle of the Civil War was the Siege of Petersburg, a strategic supply point for the Confederate Army. During this battle, which lasted nearly a year, Confederate troops dug in while the Union army seized railroad supply lines surrounding Petersburg with the ultimate goal of taking Richmond. Grant’s army was successful at routing Lee and his army from Petersburg, and this decisive battle helped to end the Civil War in 1865. Teachers may easily prepare a curriculum for the student trip by consulting the website at http://www.nps.gov/pete/forteachers/index.htm.

Pamplin Historical Park & The National Museum of the Civil War Soldier
Pamplin was the place near Richmond where the decisive Breakthrough Battle occurred April 2, 1865. After the Confederate Army suffered a loss at Pamplin, Richmond was evacuated. Pamplin encompasses 422 acres. Student groups will be engaged in interactive living history programs, and have access to four different museums at this location. Student groups may visit four antebellum homes and shopping facilities.

Richmond: Confederate Capital
As the site of the White House of the Confederacy and the present day Museum of the Confederacy, Richmond is a must see on a Civil War tour of Virginia. Richmond is significant because the siege of Richmond signified the war’s end. There were also numerous battles fought there from the beginning of the Civil War in 1862, mostly in the farm and plantation land surrounding the city. Richmond National Battlefield Park spans 1900 acres and is divided into 13 units. Numerous battles were fought throughout the war in the Richmond area. Richmond’s inhabitants saw a steady stream of wounded and were subject to rationing on a regular basis. Learn about the lives of United States Coloured Troops (USCT) who fought for the Union at the Battle of New Market and were one of the first regiments to reach Richmond. Tour the battlefield by bus and stop at some of the earthworks to view them up close. Teachers may prepare an advance lesson plan by visiting: http://www.nps.gov/rich/forteachers/curriculum-based-programs.htm.

Appomattox Courthouse: Where the Civil War Ended

Grant and Lee at Appomattox Courthouse signed the final treaty sanctioning the end of the Civil War. On April 9, 1865 Lee requested a private meeting with Grant. They convened at the McLean residence in Appomattox Courthouse, where they conversed like gentlemen for 25 minutes before Lee mentioned a surrender of his troops. Grant put his terms in writing and Lee reviewed them there. Lee requested his men be allowed to keep their horses, since in the Confederate Army the men owned them. He also mentioned his troops were hungry. As an act of good will, Grant dispatched 25,000 rations that day. The war between the states ended quite calmly in this historic town in Virginia. A visit to Appomattox Courthouse is an excellent educational experience for any group. Learning materials for curriculum development are available at http://www.nps.gov/apco/forteachers/curriculummaterials.htm.

It is obvious that Virginia is a pivotal state in the study of the Civil War. Consider a statewide tour focused on the subject of the Civil War completely, or develop a combination tour with a visit to Washington D.C. or Williamsburg for even greater coverage of American history. Whatever the itinerary or learning objective for a student group, a visit to historic Civil War sites in Virginia can be integrated into just about any type of educational tour.

Student Travel Teaches Youth About the White House, A New Symbol of Black History

Washington DC has long been a destination for student travel tours and high school field trips. Youth attending these educational trips learn about the government and its processes, the role of the country??s leaders and the richness of American History through the exploration of politics, arts, architecture, science, technology and law. As the end of the year approaches and the American people prepare for the inauguration of the 44th president Barack Obama, students and teachers in classrooms across the country are watching as Washington DC becomes an even bigger part of black history. In 2009 student travel tours of the White House will have new meaning for Americans and especially for the youth of our nation.

The Historical Role of African Americans at the White House

African Americans have played major roles at the White House since building first started in 1790. According an article in the International Herald Tribune on November 10, 2008 entitled “WHITE HOUSES PAST The underside of the welcome mat” by Gardener Harris. “The house itself was built by crews of black laborers, both slave and free. In 1801, a year after it opened, Thomas Jefferson brought nearly a dozen slaves from Monticello, and slaves would constitute much of the house’s staff until the death in 1850 of Zachary Taylor, the last slaveholder to be president.”

From the very beginning African Americans have been instrumental in the daily functions of the White House and the presidents and families living there.

Historically presidents and first ladies have been criticized for opening the White House to influential African American people. President Lincoln is the first president on record to invite a black caller to the White House. Frederick Douglass visited Lincoln three times. One of Mary Todd Lincoln’s closest friends was former slave and dressmaker Elizabeth Keckley. Although the Lincoln’s invited African American singer and entertainers none were invited to stay for meals. First ladies Lou Hoover and Eleanor Roosevelt were also criticized for their openness to African Americans at the White House.

According to Harris’ article the first African Americans to be invited to sleep at the White House were Sammy Davis Jr. and his wife Altovise in 1973 by then president Richard Nixon. The White House has long been a part of black history and will now play a new role, a role many Americans have hoped for throughout generations.

Dreaming of Change: Why the New Presidency is a Monumental Event in American History
In the last eight years President Bush has honored and celebrated a variety of Black History figures. He met Coretta Scott King during his presidency and accepted a painting of Martin Luther King Jr. that now hangs in the White House. He also participated in the Tuskegee Airmen Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. Recently in June of 2008 President Bush celebrated African American history by honoring Black Music Month and holding a social dinner in honor of American Jazz in the East Room of the White House. It is true that the appointments of Condoleeza Rice and Colin Powell were important moments in black history for Bush’s administration.

The election of Barack Obama signifies the dawn of a new day in black history because the first ever African American president and first family will move into the White House in January of 2009.

John Stauffer, author of Giants: The Parallel Lives of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln, is quoted in the International Herald Tribune article by Gardner Harris as saying, “The racial history of the White House is a wonderful symbol of the racial history of the nation as a whole.”

Student travel tours planned in the future will have a different tone now that an African American man has been elected to the highest office in the country. A visit to the White House will be an excellent place to begin a dialogue about Black History and the role of civil rights in American history.

How Student Travel Tours of the White House Can Celebrate Black History

Black history and the civil rights struggle for African American equality is an important part of learning and understanding the overall history of the United States. Student travel tours of the White House will now have an even longer lasting affect on the youth of today since American history has been forever changed by the election of an African American president. Taking students to the White House and discussing its history now makes the presidential residence a more powerful story of the fight for black equality and the achievements Americans have made as a country.

Student Travel in Washington DC is Enhanced by the New U.S. Capitol Visitor Center

Capitol Visitor Center: Washington DC‘s Newest Student Travel Destination

Congressional leaders Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell and House Republican Leader John Boehner have announced that December 2, 2008 is the grand opening for the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center in Washington DC. According to VisittheCapitol.com the date is significant because “one hundred and forty-five years ago on December 2, 1863 the final section of Statue of Freedom was placed atop the Capitol to signify the completion of construction of a new dome.”

The Capitol Visitor Center is where all visits to the Capitol begin and visitors both young and old can enjoy an exciting and educational journey. At the Capitol Visitor Center groups and individuals are encouraged to explore the history of Congress and the history of the U.S. Capitol. The Capitol Visitor Center Gift Shops and restaurant make it easy to manage educational, student travel tours.

Tips to Plan a Student Tour of the Capitol

1. Create a Student Travel Tour Itinerary for Each Day

The student tour of the Capitol will take a minimum of two hours. This does not include bathroom breaks, time for dining and time to visit your local members of Congress. If you are planning to visit other parts of the Capitol Complex such as the Library of Congress, United States Botanic Garden or the Supreme Court Building make sure you have sufficient time to explore these historical locations as well. A well thought out and organized student tour itinerary will make the Washington DC experience more exciting, educational and stimulating for the students.

2. Explain Capitol Etiquette and the Behavior Required from Student Travel Groups

Communicate clearly with students that the Capitol is a place where serious governmental business is conducted. All visitors are expected to adhere to the rules and regulations explained at the Capitol Visitor Center and to show respect to Capitol staff and government officials. All visitors, including student tours, are supposed to dress comfortably yet appropriately for a business environment. The historical importance of the Capitol is something all Americans can be proud of and share with others in the future.

3. Ask for Help from the Experts When Booking Student Travel Tours

Student travel planning can be confusing. Not only are you booking hotels, transportation, historical tours, educational events and meals, you are doing it for students. Each student relies on teachers, administrators and department heads to plan exciting and interesting first time experiences. Student travel planning can create a lot of stress and pressure, but you are not alone. There are a variety of tools available for student tours and school groups of all ages. Find a student travel planner or consultant that can help you design the perfect student tour and save you money.

The Educational Mission of the Capitol Visitor Center

As VisittheCapitol.com states, “The Capitol is among the most architecturally impressive and symbolically important buildings in the world. The Senate and the House of Representatives have met here for more than two centuries.” Visitors are moved by the power of the Capitol’s role in both history and future generations. Students and teachers alike will enjoy the Capitol Visitor Center, the Exhibition Hall, the Senate Galleries, the Emancipation Hall and more.

The Capitol Visitor Center has been built to facilitate a learning experience for every visitor. Students especially are encouraged to think critically and analytically when interpreting the beliefs, motives and traditions of the American people throughout history. Students also learn about the House, Senate and American legislative process, as well as the development of architecture and art in the U.S. Capitol. It is a fun and educational addition to the Capitol Complex and the perfect destination for student travel tours.

Civil War Sites of Interest to Student Travel Groups Around Washington D.C.

Significant American Civil War battlefields surround the Washington D.C. area and can complement a student travel tour with a curriculum based on the Civil War era, or one that includes an overview of this time in our nation’s history. Simply hearing about battle strategies and the numbers of wounded and deceased is not enough. Students gain a fuller understanding of the scope of the American Civil War when they visit the actual battlefields and hear stories about the soldiers and their struggles.

During the Civil War era, capturing Washington D.C. was the goal of the Confederate Army. For this reason, many famous Civil War battlefields are between 45 – 85 miles outside of Washington D.C., just a short distance by bus with any student travel group staying in the Washington D.C. metro area.

Following are my recommendations of Civil War battlefields within a short driving distance to Washington D.C. that are well worth the effort for student tours.

Gettysburg National Battlefield, Pennsylvania: Student Tours Learn About Civil War
As owner of Educational Travel Consultants for the past 24 years, I have taken many student tours based in Washington D.C. to Gettysburg National Military Park and the surrounding area. Our student tour of the battlefield includes a tour guide with a special knowledge of Gettysburg and the Civil War era. The tour may take two to three hours. Along with The Electric Map, student tour groups visit the National Park Visitor Center to have a better understanding of the Gettysburg National Battlefield. If the travel tour schedule allows for an overnight stay, students may dine at the historic Dobbin House and enjoy a living history presentation by Abe Lincoln or Robert E. Lee. The Ghost Tour of Gettysburg is also a popular entertainment for student travel groups in the evening at Gettysburg.

Antietam National Battlefield, Maryland: Active Student Learning About Civil War
Student tours who visit the Antietam Battlefield just an hour outside of Washington D.C. in Maryland, will find this historic site intriguing. On September 17, 1862, General Robert E. Lee assembled Confederate forces for the first attack on the Union Army. This bloody battle was recorded in historic photographs by Alexander Gardner, and in a series of paintings by James Hope, a member of the Union Infantry who sketched during battle and later painted the battle scenes. These visual images provide a realistic glimpse into the intensity of the battle at Antietam, named after the creek and the bridge. Student tour groups may take the driving tour, attend interpretive programs, or participate in other educational opportunities.

Harpers Ferry, West Virginia: Student Tour Groups Learn Armory’s History
Harpers Ferry is located in West Virginia and is at the heart of our nation’s history. Washington made it a federal armory and arsenal in 1794. In 1859, John Brown’s famous attempt to overtake the Harpers Ferry armory with the “Provisional Army of the United States” took place.

In the Civil War era, Harpers Ferry was exchanged between Confederate and Union control eight times. Stonewall Jackson trapped Union soldiers there and obtained the surrender of 12,500 troops – thus attaining the largest Federal surrender during the entire Civil War. Student tours will learn a great deal about Civil War history as well as other important moments in the history of Harpers Ferry, on a visit to this historic armory.

Bull Run in Manassas, and Fredericksburg Battlefields
Both within an hour’s drive of the Washington D.C. metro area, Bull Run and Fredericksburg are excellent Civil War sites for student visits. I have written about student travel to these historic battlefields in another article. Visit http://www.educationaltravelconsultants.com to read the article on the Government Student Tour of Washington D.C. published in November.

For more information on creating a Civil War tour for students visiting the Washington D.C. area, email info@educationaltravelconsultants.com.

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Government Student Tour of Washington D.C. May Include Historic Sites in Annapolis, Baltimore, Manassas or Fredericksburg.

What better way to understand the evolution of our democratic system of government is there than to visit actual historic sites which describe it in vivid detail? Student travel groups traveling in and around the Washington D.C. area can be given a wider scope on history if the tour group goes just a little bit outside of Washington D.C. into nearby Baltimore and Annapolis Maryland, and Manassas and Fredericksburg, Virginia. These towns offer a precious glimpse into the past, as they thrive in the present.

Here is an overview of some important historic sites in these cities neighboring Washington D.C. of interest to student travel groups on tour.

U.S. Capital and White House
Of course the U.S. Capitol and the White House are two government buildings that should not be missed on a tour of Washington D.C. I have mentioned them in another article in great detail. Visit: http://educationaltravelconsultants.com/blog/?m=200707
for more information.

Annapolis, Maryland, Berth of the U.S. Navy
Annapolis is a city that dates to over 300 years old and was once a thriving mecca and cultural center in colonial times. Only one hour outside the city of Washington D.C., Annapolis is well worth a daylong visit by a student travel group on tour. Designed and built on a grid similar to Baroque cities in Europe, Annapolis is truly modeled on classical architectural and urban planning styles. The radiating streets highlight the significance of buildings in the center.

Named after Queen Ann, the city of Annapolis is rich in history. Because of its strategic location, Annapolis was a colonial seaport and offered berth to European traders as well as entrée to the Chesapeake Bay region and further south to other port cities. Annapolis is also known for horse racing. The gentry of Europe needed to indulge this passion in the new world, and so Annapolis is renowned for breeding thoroughbred champions whose lineage dates to colonial times.

Baltimore Maryland
Fort McHenry is perhaps one of the best-known historic destinations in Baltimore Maryland, and is the place where Francis Scott Key wrote the Star Spangled Banner while witnessing the Battle of Baltimore there in 1814. Yet Fort McHenry, because of its location on the Baltimore Harbor, would also be a well-defended location during subsequent U.S. Wars including the Civil War, World War I, and World War II. Student travel groups maybe tour the highlights of Fort McHenry including a look at the battery, Major Armistead’s quarters, soldiers’ barracks, the place where a British bomb was dropped but not exploded, and more. Teachers may visit http://www.nps.gov/fomc/forteachers/lessonplansandteacherguides.htm for lesson plans and guides for student travel visits to Fort McHenry.

Manassas, Virginia Historic Battlefield
Bull Run is the site of two famous American Civil War battles fought there beginning in the summer of 1861 and culminating in another battle a year later. The Battle of Bull Run tipped the cards in favor of the Confederate army during this part of the war. Student travel groups may tour the 5,000 acre battlefield to learn more about the Battle of Bull Run, just an hour’s drive from Washington D.C. A one-hour self-guided walking tour is available to groups on the Henry Hill Loop Trail, or student groups may select a driving tour, or a park ranger guided hike. Bull Run is an excellent place for students to learn about the Civil War era. Teachers may obtain curriculum materials by visiting: http://www.nps.gov/mana/forteachers/curriculummaterials.htm.

Fredericksburg, Virginia
One of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War, the Battle of Fredericksburg, was fought there and is lauded as General Robert E. Lee’s finest victory. This was the first of four battles fought there between 1862-64. Three others include: Battle of Chancellorsville, Battle of Wilderness, and Battle of Spotsylvania. Student tour groups can see Chatham Manor at the Fredericksburg battlefields, a well restored and preserved Georgian Manor that sits on a hill overlooking the Rappahannock River and historic Fredericksburg. Chatham Manor was at one time a hospital and Union headquarters. Student groups will also want to visit Salem Church and the Stonewall Jackson Shrine at this National Park Service site. Teachers may obtain lesson plans for student travel groups visiting Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania County Battlefields Memorial by visiting http://www.nps.gov/frsp/forteachers/lessonplans.htm.

Take a student travel group on a short trip just outside of Washington D.C. to help them understand the big picture of American history.

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