Tag Archives: school trip washington dc

Lessons of History and Freedom: Student Trip to Washington, DC is Enlightening and Eye-Opening for Students

By Howard Clemens

Recently, teacher Brynley Martin, who has taught eighth grade English Literature and history at Oak Hill Jr. High School for twelve years, took her students on a tour of Washington, DC. It’s a trip her classes make every year, and one that new students look forward to and former ones always remember fondly.  When students travel to Washington D.C., they get to immerse themselves in their fields of study in ways that go far beyond requisite classroom discussion and research.

This particular student tour covers a wide range, from cornerstones like the National Archives (in which the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the Declaration of Independence are housed) to the many exhibits in the Smithsonian, like the American History and Air and Space Museums. This student travel group also visited Mount Vernon, the plantation of George Washington and landmark of the Revolutionary War.  It was important to Martin that the students also take a close look at the Holocaust Museum—an experience many students have described as profound and life-changing.

I recently interviewed Brynley Martin about her most recent class trip from Converse, Indiana to Washington D.C.

Q: What is your official title at Oak Hill Jr. High School?

A: I am an eighth grade English and Literature teacher.

Q: How often do you take your students on tour in Washington D.C.?

A: This will be my seventh year. The tours have been great, and every one of them is different.  Every student group is composed of students who are seeing and assimilating these sites for the first time.

Q: Have you toured other cities in the US?

A: No, just Washington D.C. so far.

Q: Washington is a city that’s critical for an understanding of U.S. History. How does the tour of DC tie into the class you teach? What specific parts of American history are covered?

A:  We dedicate nine weeks in literature class to the study of the Holocaust. We visit The Holocaust Museum to supplement our studies and to understand the real stories of people who suffered and died in it.  This puts a greater emphasis on what we’ve learned. We also study the origins of the U.S., from the Revolutionary up to the Civil War.

Q: The Newseum is a museum dedicated to news and media in American culture. This ties directly into written and spoken language in English, and the ways it’s used to communicate information. Can you comment on student’s reactions to visiting it?

A: On previous trips, we hadn’t had time to really check things out. But the students loved it. There’s so much stuff to see there, something for everyone.

Q: Your class visited the National Archives. What specifically did you want your students to see there?

A: Specifically, the Declaration of Independence, which is sometimes not the easiest thing to see because the lines are so long. It was great for them to be able to see it in detail during this last trip.

Q: How was your trip to the Holocaust Museum?

A: We always request the full tour there. It is very important to our trip, and the kids are moved by it. They get to learn about the Holocaust through more than just books, which always affects them in profound and significant ways.

Q: Describe any post-trip writing or speaking students were required to perform to assimilate their experiences.

A: All students bring a disposable camera on the trip. They use their photos to create a comprehensive and individual project about their own experience. They present this project to the rest of the class, through the lens of their own point of view.

Q: How long have you been doing these tours? What has been your experience with the tour guides and other staff?

A: I think we’ve been traveling for six years now. The tour guides have been awesome! They are very knowledgeable about Washington D.C. and have always worked well with us to solve any problems that might come up. It’s been a great experience, overall.

Diversity of Impressions and Increased Appreciation of History: Something for Every Student Trip

Every student will take something personal away with them from the trip, while also gaining a greater understanding of history and the way language is used to make and change it. Exposing students to places like the Holocaust Museum is instrumental in promoting an understanding of the ethical responsibilities of history. Up close and personal exposure to exhibits housed in the National Archives and the Smithsonian can provide a fresh and vital perspective for learning. All these make for a uniquely visceral experience that serve to broaden and enhance classroom studies in essential and innovative ways. Martin feels that these trips to Washington D.C. positively impact her students, and broaden their appreciation and knowledge of their studies, so she will continue to take groups on tour.

Request a quote for a student tour of Washington D.C.

A Middle School Trip to Washington D.C. to Study American History

Lisa Wertz is a middle school teacher who brought her 8th grade class to Washington D.C. each year.  “I always felt that the trip was good preparation for high school,” said Wertz. The visit to Washington DC is “great preparation for the 8th graders since they will take government classes in 9th grade,” added Wertz. An in depth look at the places in Washington D.C. which house the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government was also a once in a lifetime experience for many of the students who traveled on these trips from Boulder, Colorado to the East Coast.

Educational Trip to Washington D.C. Includes Time with Senator

Thanks to advanced planning, there were also added educational experiences on the most recent class trip to Washington D.C. In addition to seeing the White House and U.S. Capitol, the class was able to meet with Senator Bennet during their visit.  “It was impressive,” said Wertz, “We met with Senator Bennet in the agricultural committee room in the Russell Building.”  She said students were able to ask him questions.  This type of interactive experience is possible for many student tours, though not all participate with representatives in this way. Sometimes a representative’s schedule or lack of enough advanced planning can prevent a group from dialoguing directly with their congressmen or senators.  Trip leaders should ask a student travel consultant for procedures on booking time with representatives.  Book six months to one year in advance of the visit to Washington D.C.

Casey Middle School Government Students Participate in Mock Hearing

In addition to meeting with Senator Bennet, Representative Jared Polis’ staff conducted a mock committee hearing for Wertz’s middle school group.   She said students learned how bills are sometimes attached to other bills.  The topics presented included Medical Marijuana and the Dream Act.  This mock hearing enabled students to better understand the day-to-day workings of a democratic government.  In this setting, students, like representatives, are challenged to listen to and assimilate the opinions of all sides.

Other D.C. Destinations on the Class Trip

There were other destinations on this trip to Washington D.C. that tied in well with the curriculum. The group was able to visit the Supreme Court.  Students looked at the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, which was a highlight for many.  They also visited the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum and the American and Natural History Museum — two popular choices for student groups.

Students See Mount Vernon by Boat and Land

On their final day on tour, Wertz’s students took a Spirit Cruise around Mount Vernon and spent the day at George and Martha Washington’s estate.  Wertz said, “We designed a scavenger hunt for Mount Vernon. Students used their cell phone cameras to record the information they found there.  It was really fun!”   Incorporating the tools of new technology into the Mount Vernon visit helped to interest students in history by engaging them more deeply with the artifacts and structures there.

Casey Middle School’s four day, three night tour was packed with even more interesting activities.  They visited the Newseum and had a full tour of the Holocaust Museum. Each of these museums has a great deal to offer the student of American History and government.  Both museums are relatively new, and integrate interactive technology into exhibits.

On this unique tour, students took an in-depth look at U.S. government and studied how it functions in a free society.  They were able to visit sites of historical significance, speak directly to their representatives and participate in a mock hearing.  A combination of indoor and outdoor destinations created a full itinerary with plenty of opportunity for learning.

Request a Quote for the U.S. History/Government tour of Washington D.C. or email info@educationaltravelconsultants.com.