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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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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.

Student Tours of Washington D.C. Require Knowledge of Security Procedures

By Howard Clemens

Following is a question and answer session with Ann Greenwald, Tour Director, and Licensed Washington D.C. Guide.

As a student tour travel consultant for many years, it has become necessary to prepare groups for security procedures and protocols of certain U.S. government buildings in this post 9-11 era. In a brief interview with an affiliated Tour Director in Washington D.C., I have detailed the many requirements for security that are necessary to visit some of the more common sites within Washington D.C.

White House tour:
Q. What items can you bring with you on the White House tour?
A. You must bring a valid photo I.D. Students may bring a wallet if it fits in a pocket. Women cannot bring purses. Nothing else is permitted: no cameras, no breath mints, no chapstick, no bottled water, no gum – nothing. These items will be taken at the gate and students probably won’t get them back. They go into a trash bin.

Q. How does a student tour group get permission to attend a White House tour?
A. A list of student and adult travelers, along with their Social Security numbers, are submitted to a congressman or senator well in advance of the trip. All names are subject to a background check. Without permission to do a background check, an individual cannot get into the White House. Groups must line up in alphabetical order. For any additional security information concerning a student travel tour of the White House, please consult this site : http://www.whitehouse.gov/history/tours/

United States Capitol Tour:
Q. What personal items are prohibited inside the U.S. Capitol?
A. No oversized backpacks are allowed, though purse backpacks are permissible. All permissible bags are subject to a security search. Depending upon where you start the tour there may be up to three security checkpoints, and three checks on your purse. Other prohibited items include: water, nothing that can be construed as a weapon such as a metal file, no hairspray, no hand sanitizer. No liquids of any kind are permitted. No food is permitted.

Q. What personal items are allowed inside the U.S. Capitol?
A. Cameras are permitted but not inside the galleries (House and Senate chambers). Also permitted on the general tour but not in the galleries is any video recording devices, electronic devices and baby strollers.

Q. When is the Capitol tour open to the public?
A. The Capitol is open to the public for guided tours Monday through Saturday with the exception of Thanksgiving and Christmas days. Ticket holders will be directed to the South Visitor Receiving Facility and proceed to the Capitol to begin their tour. Maximum tour size is 40 people. A student tour company can make arrangements through the U.S. Senator or Congressman to schedule a special tour for educational travel groups and avoid the public line (and wait). If student tour groups need additional information concerning visiting the U.S. Capitol please consult their official website: http://www.aoc.gov/cc/visit/

The Smithsonian:
Q. What security procedures should students and chaperones expect when visiting the Smithsonian as part of a tour?
A. At most museums, security personnel will conduct a thorough but speedy hand check of all bags, briefcases, purses, and containers. All visitors are subject to bag checks with special electronic devices. There are walk through security bag checkpoints at all Smithsonian Museums and students will go through a metal detector. For those unable to walk through the metal detector such as those in wheelchairs, security personnel will screen these visitors individually. No food or drink is allowed in any of the Smithsonian Museums.

Q. What items are allowed in the Smithsonian?
A. Backpacks and purses are allowed in the Smithsonian, and they are subject to search. For any additional security questions concerning a student tour of the Smithsonian, please consult the following site : http://www.smithsonian.org/visit/security_and_policies.htm.

General Tips to Student travelers coming to Washington D.C.
Q. Are there any suggestions you would make to students traveling to Washington D.C. for tours of the various sites?
A. The lighter students travel, the quicker they get through security. Leave ipods or other metal devices in rooms or on the bus. The lighter students go the more comfortable they will be. My advice is if it doesn’t fit in your pocket or wallet or purse, leave it. This will mean the student will not have to get into a bag check line. As a rule, don’t bring food or drink anywhere. In most cases the student can bring water with them (but, not the Capital or White House).

In a typical day of touring with a group, Ann says her groups will visit five to eight sites and go through security an average of three to ten times per day depending upon the site visited.

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