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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.

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.

Eddie Boggs, Washington D.C. Tour Guide, Educator, Leader on Student Trips

When Eddie Boggs was a guidance counselor for Timberstone Junior High School in Sylvania, Ohio, he organized combined student trips to Washington D.C. with McCord Junior High School. Fifteen years ago, he started bringing this large group of 200 students to Washington D.C. with Educational Travel Consultants.

A Lifelong Educator Becomes a Tour Guide with ETC
Today, Eddie Boggs is a licensed Washington D.C. tour guide and he works for Educational Travel Consultants. For Boggs, a former English and Social Studies teacher, the educational student trip is the perfect tool to help engage students in the study of the history of the United States and our government. “I know that most of the students who take the trip to Washington D.C. are going because their friends are attending,” says Boggs, “but if I can educate them in the process, it’s icing on the cake.”

Boggs has been a career educator, with a strong commitment to his community and his schools. He says, “Parents are sending their kids on these trips now because they went with me to Washington D.C. in 8th grade. The parents are the best ambassadors for the student trip.” Though Boggs jokes, “”I’ll probably quit when I get the fourth generation of students,” he admits he loves his job so much because he is a performer and he loves to make people happy.

Boggs says he loves to entertain. He plays guitar and sings folk music, and is still an active performer in the genre. He reflected, “I have traveled all over the country singing and had the opportunity to meet people. I’m a solo-performing artist and I play with the New Christian Minstrels — a folk group from the 1960s.”

Touring in the Spring with Student Travel Groups
Boggs is retired from his position as Guidance Counselor at Timberstone Junior High School, but he still has a full schedule of spring touring with Educational Travel Consultants. Boggs also teaches college in the fall at the University of Toledo. He teaches counseling methods to teachers there. For him, teaching, performing, and being a tour guide all tap the same skill sets.

Reflecting upon the past 15 years of bringing student groups on tour of Washington D.C. with Educational Travel Consultants, Boggs is certain that he has chosen the right company to work alongside. And, now he is proud to represent the same company on educational tours.

Ohio Students Attend a Washington D.C. Student Trip Every June
Boggs still brings the school trip to Washington D.C. each June. “It’s a nice big group of students. We used to go in the spring but we didn’t know how to dress because the temperatures are so variable. In the summer it’s so much easier to just pack some shorts, shirts, and sandals. Since we have almost 200 people going it’s a challenge to manage all of that luggage. We try to keep luggage as light as possible to prevent extra fees.”

The Economics of Partnering With Educational Travel Consultants on Student Trips

Economy and service are two of the main reasons Boggs has worked so well with Educational Travel Consultants over the years. Boggs says, “The Clemens family is honest and they have integrity. Their staff has the same kind disposition as them. I have worked with, and for, an honest sincere company that tries to keep the cost of student trips down as low as possible.”

Other Student Travel Companies are More Expensive

Over the years, Boggs has listened to parents’ stories about the cost of other student trips with other schools and student travel organizations. “There are other families around here going on student trips with other companies and they are paying twice as much,” he acknowledges.” I know parents are getting ripped off and I hate that. I try to keep the cost low so as many students can go as possible.”

Despite hard economic times and uncertain fuel costs, Educational Travel Consultants has maintained the same economical per student cost and always allowed a proportionate number of chaperones to travel for free. This incredible deal has been maintained during the worst of times — and it means a great deal to parents, students, and teachers on a tight budget.

For more information on scheduling a tour, or to request Eddie Boggs as a tour guide for a student trip to Washington D.C. contact an Educational Travel Consultant, or fill out the short questionnaire to request a quote.

Visit the New National Musuem of American History in Washington D.C.

Plan an Educational Tour of the National Museum of American History in Washington DC

Student field trips and educational tours to famous, metropolitan cities like New York City, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington DC are popular these days, but in the fall of 2008 a Washington DC educational student travel destination reopens that everyone will want to visit. On Friday, November 21, 2008 the National Museum of American History opens its doors after over two years and $85 million of architectural renovations. According to a July 30, 2008 press release from the National Museum of American History the center core of the building has been redesigned to improve architectural appeal and modernize the presentation of the museum’s extensive collections. The redesign includes construction of a skylit 5-story atrium, grand staircase and a new Star-Spangled Banner Gallery.

Visit the Museum of American History and Make Your Washington DC Student Travel Tour a Success

An Inspirational and Educational Field Trip: Visit the 200-Year-Old Star Spangled Banner
In the center of Washington DC’s American History Museum the Star-Spangled Banner Gallery was built to inspire visitors through the dramatic and powerful story of the American flag and the national anthem. The Star-Spangled Banner gallery is a state of the art facility made to protect, preserve and display the American flag. Housed behind a 45-foot tall, floor to ceiling glass wall in a special, climate controlled chamber the flag’s wool and cotton fibers are monitored and maintained. Low light levels and the projection of the first stanza of Francis Scott Key’s poem, “The Star Spangled Banner” on the wall above and behind the flag provide excellent visibility for museum visitors. According to the American History Museum’s web site, “The History Channel, a donor through financial contributions and in-kind gifts, will release a new one-hour special touching on the flag’s colorful history, including the specialized conservation treatment undertaken by the museum and the new high-tech flag chamber.” As a part of the ‘Save Our History’ series, the History Channel documentary airs this fall.

Celebrate American History: Take a Class Trip to See the White House Copy of President Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address

Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, given on November 19, 1863, is one of the most well-known and memorable speeches in American history. The manuscript, displayed at the National Museum of American History in Washington DC, is one of five drafts and the last known to have been written in Lincoln’s own hand in March of 1864. This copy of the Gettysburg Address is officially part of a collection kept at the White House in the private quarters of the Lincoln Bedroom. First Lady Laura Bush approved the loan of this copy to the Washington DC American History Museum until January 4, 2009.

Additional Museum Exhibitions Perfect for Student Tour Groups and Student Trips
On the second floor of the National Museum of American History the Nina and Ivan Selin Welcome Center serves as a landmark and houses historical objects like the Vassar College telescope from 1865. The telescope is situated on the west wing of the first floor to represent science and technology and was used by the first woman astronomer in America. The west wing also includes a hands-on science and invention center called the Lemelson Hall of Invention and Spark!Lab. One of the program highlights planned for the spring of 2009 is the 8,000 square foot ‘On the Water: Stories from Maritime America’ exhibition. In 2009 The Susan and Elihu Rose Gallery will begin to feature rotating exhibits so visitors can encounter varying historic characters every weekend as well as celebrate and learn about various federal holidays.

Make Your Educational Student Tour Unforgettable at Washington DC’s National Museum of American History

The American History Museum renovations also include the construction of the 275-seat Carmichael Auditorium, the Samuel J. and Ethel LaFrak Lobby, new elevators, new restrooms, retail operations, The Constitution Café and the 600-seat Stars and Stripes Café. Historians, families, student travel tours, educational travel services and individuals interested in exploring American history from colonial to modern times can view virtual exhibits and collections online at the National Museum of American History’s web site: americanhistory.si.edu. Museum schedules, special events and educational activities are also available online.

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Annapolis Maryland: A Great Add On For Student Travel to Washington D.C.

by Howard Clemens

Annapolis, Maryland is an historic naval stronghold and seaport with colonial influences and a distinct character. Student trips to Washington D.C. are adding a much broader educational experience with a day trip to Annapolis, Maryland. The U.S. Naval Academy is one student destination, but not the only point of interest. Annapolis is also a city with a rich selection of historic buildings and colonial architecture. Some leading figures in Early American history were entertained in Annapolis, including many of the nation’s founding fathers.

Annapolis: A Short Bus Drive From Washington D.C.
The city of Annapolis is a short bus ride from Washington D.C. During the colonial era Annapolis was just as important as Washington D.C. and served as a focus for politics and commerce. Annapolis was named for Princess Anne. Not long after, she became Queen and chartered Annapolis as a city in 1708.

With the lure of a lucrative shipping industry, wealthy merchants and planters built their lavish estate homes in Annapolis. Many of these homes are representative of the European architecture of the colonial period. This history makes the seaport town stand out, mainly due to the grandness and splendor of homes and the lifestyles lived there.

Student Travel to the Annapolis Historic Downtown District
Student travel groups do not want to miss out on historical homes and public buildings in Annapolis that date as far back as the American Revolutionary period. The best way to take in all of the points of interest is to take a short walking tour in the historic part of Annapolis. Some of the highlights students will see include the City Dock, State House, St. John’s College, and William Paca House and Garden. The connection between Annapolis and later prominent statesmen in Washington D.C. will be evident after this walking tour. Student travel groups can enjoy some souvenir shopping or grab a light snack or cold drink while touring downtown Annapolis.

Harbor Boat Tour: Annapolis
The Annapolis Harbor boat tour is one of the best opportunities for students to see the U.S. Naval Academy from the vantage point of the Chesapeake Bay. The boat cruises around the Annapolis Harbor for less than an hour. The professional tour guide narrates the history of Annapolis, the U.S. Naval Academy, and some of the strategic battles that were fought here or nearby. Student travel groups will learn about history, commerce, social life, journeys at sea, and more, when they take Annapolis Harbor Tour. The Annapolis Harbor Tour is a great complement to the walking tour of downtown Annapolis.

Maryland State House
This historic building is the oldest capitol building in continuous use in the U.S. It served as the Capitol from 1783-1784, when the Continental Congress met there. The building was rebuilt three separate times. It was burned in 1704; the government outgrew the new building by 1769; and, an Annapolis architect helped create the plans for and execute the third Maryland State House building. The new building had a dome, an extraordinary engineering feat. Student travelers will marvel at the lightning rod atop the Maryland State House, built to specifications by Ben Franklin. Franklin had a theory that lightning rods attached to high buildings prevented lightning strikes on the structure. The Maryland State House was an integral part of Early American history and political life. Some of the earliest forms of representative government were practiced at the Maryland State House; therefore it is a necessary stop on any student trip.

Student travel groups touring the Washington D.C. area will want to consider adding a full day or half day trip to Annapolis to their itinerary. For more information regarding student travel trips to Washington D.C., Annapolis, or other areas, visit http://www.educationaltravelconsultants.com.

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Washington D.C.: The Capitol Tour and Tickets to Congressional Sessions

Tips on Obtaining Admission for Student Travel Groups

The following interview was conducted with Vicki Heebner, Reservations Manager for Educational Travel Consultants. She gives some quick and easy tips for student travel trips headed to Washington D.C. Heebner explains two different processes of obtaining tickets for a Capitol Tour. Student groups may also receive Gallery tickets to view the Congress or Senate when in session, or just take a tour of the Gallery itself.

Heebner works closely with another student travel specialist, Joanne Wycoff. Heebner says, “Once a group is booked, I review the itinerary and make reservations for the travel groups. I am in charge of Capitol Tours and tickets to Congressional sessions.”

How to Book a Capitol Tour for a Student Travel Group

In order to book a student travel group’s Capitol Tour, a specific procedure must be followed. “We find the senator or congressman of the district that the school group comes from. Often a school will request a certain senator or congressman,” says Heebner. She uses a surefire method of booking the tour, “I visit the senator or congressman’s website and determine what type of application is needed for a student travel group visiting the Washington D.C. area. It’s usually either an online request or a form that can be printed and faxed. I fill out the form and send it in, and follow it with a phone call.” Requests must be submitted early, and there must be full cooperation from the senator or congressman’s office. “If it’s a senator that cares about his constituents, their children, and getting re-elected the tour will be set up in an organized and timely manner,” said Heebner.

Booking the Capitol Tour in Washington D.C. is Still not Easy

Even with this type of follow-up, the requests for a Capitol Tour can sometimes be lost or misplaced. Heebner says that most representatives’ offices are run by interns that serve a six-month term. So, she always follows the initial contact and confirmation with another phone call, within a time frame closer to the student travel trip to Washington D.C. Usually, a different intern answers the telephone, and sometimes they have to dig up the paperwork, or Heebner has even been asked to go through the process again.

In the Washington D.C. student travel market, there are plenty of great attractions that are low or no cost. Heebner says that the Capitol Tour is one of those unique experiences every American must want to have – to witness our representative democracy in action. Booking the Capitol Tour is made easier through pre-planning and great execution by a student travel expert.

Large Groups on Capitol Tour in Washington D.C.

Heebner did mention that sometimes large groups on Capitol Tour can require even more advance planning. For example, her company, Educational Travel Consultants, scheduled a Capitol Tour with 230 student travel participants. “They require one intern for every 15 students. When groups are this big, planning ahead is essential. Requests for the tour must be in as quickly as possible. Even if the large student travel group is not scheduled for the Capitol Tour, they may still receive passes to the gallery so they can sit in on a Congressional or Senatorial session.

What if Groups Do Not Book the Capitol Tour On Time?
The only alternative to an advance booking for a Capitol Tour through a congressman or senator’s office is not a good one, especially for student travel groups with limited time on their itinerary. Tickets are distributed on a first come first served basis at the Capitol, one per person. During the busy student travel months of spring student groups must stand in line — and lines are long. The ticket window is open from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Even though student travel groups line up, there is no guarantee they will obtain admission. It’s better to work with an educational travel partner to book the Capitol Tour in advance rather than waste valuable touring time standing in the long times.

Gallery Passes: Another Alternative to the Capitol Tour

Student travel groups who cannot obtain Capitol Tour tickets may still have a chance to see a live session by obtaining Gallery passes. Seeing the representatives live is dependent upon whether the Senate or House is session. Groups can still obtain gallery passes but they are just touring the Capitol Gallery. The Senate Gallery is located at the north side of the Capitol and the House of Representatives at the south side of the Capitol. Gallery passes are much easier to obtain than Capitol Tour passes and will still give student groups a view of the chambers that serve as the heart of our democratic government.