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Advance Planning for Student Tours of D.C. to Include White House and Capitol

2015  Student Travel Update

by Howard Clemens

Government, Social Studies & History Teachers often take class trips to Washington D.C. to experience democracy at work. This type of active learning is a great way to immerse students into thinking and questioning about various facets of the U.S. government. Security measures are more complex across the United States and internationally – and rules change from time to time. Nowadays, teachers and trip leaders must be aware advance planning is needed to tour the White House and the Capitol.

For student tour groups headed to Washington D.C. – there are some recent changes in rules about bringing electronic devices to the White House, too. The good news is that students can now bring smart phones in the White House, so long as they do not use it to take video (only still shots). With enough planning, student groups can be well informed about what to bring – and what items to leave on the bus or in the hotel room.

Student Tours of the White House
There is no denying that a tour of the White House can be a memorable experience for students and persons of any age. Trip leaders must be prepared well in advance of the student trip to Washington D.C. A minimum of six months planning time may be required to ensure that every person who is attending the tour provides a formal name, date of birth and city in advance of the trip. On the day of the White House tour, each person must present a valid government picture Identification that matches the information provided exactly. Acceptable forms of ID include: valid government issued photo IDs, drivers license, military ID or a passport for foreign students.

In the past, students were not allowed to bring electronic devices such as smart phones and cameras on tour of the White House. On July 15, 2015 the White House, through Michelle Obama, declared (on a YouTube.com video) that visitors are now allowed to bring their smart phones and small cameras (lens must be 3” or less) on tours. No video recorders are allowed on tour and no live streaming of videos on any device is permitted. Lifting the ban on cell phones and small cameras on White House tours is excellent news for student travelers. Many students want to take photographs and post them to social networks while they tour Washington D.C. Now they can share their experience with others publicly.

Leave Personal Items Behind
While student groups may bring smart phones and cameras, they still must leave their purses, handbags, book bags and backpacks behind on the bus or in the hotel. Similar to school zones, no explosives or firearms are allowed. This includes: aerosol containers, guns, ammunition, fireworks, weapons or knives of any size.

Students may bring their smart phones and cameras but they are still expected to give their full attention on tour. This means students are not permitted to talk or text while on tour. Students will not be allowed to use flash photography, or – as already mentioned – video recording or live streaming on their devices.

Trip leaders and teachers need to make students aware they are in a sensitive area for national security and breeches are taken seriously. While security measures have loosened in some respects, the Secret Service still reserves the right to confiscate phones if they are used in the White House.

Educational Tours of the Capitol Building in Washington D.C.

Though the rules are less strict in the Capitol Building for touring student groups, the advance time frame of six months or more to schedule a tour is still relevant. An educational travel company can book the student group tour online or through the school’s Senator or Representative’s office. Trip leaders do not need to provide advance lists of visitors for a tour of the Capitol.

Electronic devices are allowed in the Capitol Building, but not in Senate and House Galleries. Students will be expected to hand over their battery operated electronic devices, cameras and video recording devices of any kind before entering. These items will be securely stored and then returned to visitors once their time in the galleries is concluded.

Student groups can expect to begin the tour at the Capitol Visitor Center, where they will see a brief film, “Out of Many, One” on establishing democracy. Then they will be escorted into the Capitol to see the Crypt, the Rotunda, and the National Statuary Hall. The student tour will end at the Capitol Visitor Center.

Visiting these significant buildings in Washington D.C. is a must for students of history, social studies and government. Seeing government representatives in action, in the environment where political, legal and social battles are fought will be a strong memory for years to come.

Learn more about custom tours of Washington D.C. which include a visit to the White House and Capitol Building. Email info@educationaltravelconsultants.com or visit Request a Quote.

Tips for ‘Pitching’ Class Trips to Administrators

by Howard Clemens

Educators are already bogged down with many responsibilities both inside and outside the classroom. Some are in need of assistance to help plan and execute student trips. Working in the student travel industry for over 25 years, I have several ideas on how to make student trips more enticing to administrators. There are talking points for approaching the administration or even the school board about taking students on an educational trip.

I am the owner of a student travel company, Educational Travel Consultants. I have assisted many teachers in planning and executing class trips to Washington D.C., New York City, Orlando, and other U.S. destinations.

These days, class trips can be organized around science themes, performance trips, art tours, theater tours, eco-trips, and more. Taking a multi-subject approach to travel as a tool for educational enrichment means there are more possibilities for students to engage in active learning on a variety of topics.

Many teachers are required to validate student travel objectives to administrators or others. I would like to guide teachers in how to be successful at this challenge.

This article gives some tips on how to make the best approach to administrators and gain approval for a class trip to a desired destination.

1. Teachers Need to Make a Direct Connection between the Curriculum and the Student Trip. Teachers in subject areas outside of U.S. History can engage student learning with trips. The obvious choice for a trip to Washington D.C. is to tie it into an American History or Government class. But this is only one way of ‘pitching’ a trip to Washington D.C. A trip to Washington D.C. could be focused on science, be a band trip tied to a performance, include theater or provide a tour of art venues in town. My company is always ready to provide appropriate tour suggestions for any of these areas of study. Or we can book a standard class trip to Washington with a tour of the White House, Capitol, and downtown area.

2. Define the funding source clearly. Fundraising is an important issue and must be addressed in a meeting with administrators. Here is a brief list of some effective fundraising ideas that students can participate in that I recommend frequently: citrus fruit sales, selling roses and carnations on Valentine’s Day, sponsoring a car wash, selling scratch off cards, or selling CDs or DVDs. The teacher may want to do some preliminary research on or offline to confirm some of these fundraising methods and look at profit margins on products to set realistic fundraising goals for the class trip. Parents can also be asked to pay for a certain portion of the trip.

3. Present a Trip Budget: Break costs down by student and also add any other additional costs for the student trip that may be needed. A student travel consultant can assist with this. Present a comprehensive budget with an estimation of the number of people traveling on the trip.

4. Outline Financial Benefits. Teachers and chaperones are usually given complimentary trips by student travel companies. This eliminates costs for most adults to travel. This is one large benefit that is important, especially during tight budget years for the school.

5. Discuss Educational Benefits. What are the educational benefits of this trip? Will students come away with a firsthand knowledge of the way in which democracy works after visiting the Capitol and the White House? Have they benefited from visiting the estates of some of the founding fathers in Virginia, or seen the early canal system that used to move people and goods in the U.S? Indicate how students will be academically prepped before the trip. Give students a way to process the trip by building writing assignments into post travel curriculums.

6. Safety: Research and confirm that students, teachers and chaperones are insured on the trip, to alleviate liability to the school should anything occur. Select a well- established travel company that specializes in student travel and guarantees trip insurance. ETC carries a $2 million dollar liability insurance policy for all student trips. Another way to ensure safety includes something my company has done for ages. Our tour consultants book ONLY hotels with interior hallways and locked doors.

7. Chaperones: List the parents who will be accompanying students on this trip. Indicate the chaperone to student ratio.

These are just a few ideas that will guide an educator in preparing the foundation for an excellent educational experience that includes active learning: a class trip. Even during times of economic challenge educational travel should still be planned and executed, because it makes learning fun and is a desirable addition to any curriculum.

Email info@educationaltravelconsultants.com or Request a Quote for a student trip by filling out a brief online form today.

Washington D.C.: Popular Places to Dine, Entertain, and Shop With Student Travel Groups

Students traveling to Washington D.C. on tour are more likely to enjoy themselves when the educational experience is coupled with dining and entertainment experiences they find exciting. An educational travel company and the tour guide working in the Washington D.C. area can work together to add some age appropriate experiences to student travel that will be well remembered. The good news for parents, teachers, and administrators is that it is not necessary to depart from the educational objectives of the student trip to satisfy the student group’s yearning for something different.

Recently, I interviewed Ann Greenwald, a Tour Director and a licensed Washington D.C. guide who has been working in the profession for eight years. Greenwald has given knowledgeable and insightful guided tours to many student travel groups in and around Washington D.C. and has a real feel for the types of dining, entertainment and shopping experiences students enjoy. The selections discussed are popular and economic choices for student travel tour itineraries.

Student Travel Groups: Shopping in Washington D.C.

When students shop, they do so to purchase souvenirs, or small gifts for their families and friends. A shopping experience for a student on tour in Washington D.C. can be as simple as visiting the National Archives and picking up a replica of the Declaration of Independence in the gift shop. “At the Air and Space Center, students get a kick out of buying the freeze dried ice cream that astronauts eat,” says Ann Greenwald.

Student travel groups often gravitate toward the more economical choices for shopping – such as a souvenir store. Ann Greenwald says there are two very popular stores among student groups in downtown Washington D.C.: “Students love Souvenir City & Joes. Both stores offer reasonably priced t-shirts and sweatshirts. FBI and Secret Service hats are popular among student travel groups and can be purchased at either store. Any shopping experience tied into the educational experience can be rewarding and fun.”

Combine Dining and Entertainment in Washington D.C.: Student Favorites

There are several great restaurants in the Washington D.C. area that combine dining and entertainment and are well loved by student travel groups. “McGill’s Pizza in Annandale, Virginia is a student favorite,” said Greenwald. “McGill’s has an arcade with a game room, so students can win things when they purchase tickets,” she added.
The ESPN Zone, in downtown Washington D.C. is also popular among student travel groups. It’s conveniently located around the corner from Ford’s Theater in Washington D.C. Greenwald says, “Student groups can have a meal, and if it’s included in their tour they receive a $10 card that may be used in the downstairs arcade.”
Another popular eatery for student groups on tour of Washington D.C. is the Hard Rock Café. “Student travel groups just think it’s cool to go into the Hard Rock Café,” says Greenwald. “There’s the memorabilia, pictures, and rock music playing all the time,” she continued, “and all of this adds to the appeal for student travelers.”
Consider combining food and entertainment on a student travel tour of Washington D.C. one evening to lighten the student group’s spirits and put them in a great mood for touring the next day.

Entertainment for Student Travel Groups
There are numerous choices for entertainment in Washington D.C. that will captivate student travel groups. Greenwald says that if it’s in the student travel budget, attending “Sheer Madness” at the Kennedy Center is an evening that student travelers enjoy immensely. The interactive murder mystery dinner theater format gets students involved with the theater production and outcome of the ‘whodunit’ plot.

Finally, an evening illuminated tour of the monuments in Washington D.C. can be a great way to draw student travelers into the experience of history. Greenwald commented, “ As the symbolism is explained at the various monuments, kids gain a better understanding of history. Instead of just staring at an inanimate object, I explain why the monument is there, and what the symbolism signifies. They come away with a greater understanding of U.S. history, and the permanent mark it has left on Washington D.C.” An evening walk around Washington D.C. in the spring or fall adds an outdoor dimension to touring that is appreciated by all. Students should plan accordingly by brining appropriate clothing for Washington D.C. weather during the time of year they visit.

These recommended choices for dining, entertainment and shopping for student travel are by no means a comprehensive list of the possibilities. The suggestions Greenwald makes for student groups on tour of Washington D.C. are simple and cost effective so they make great additions to a trip itinerary. For the student traveler, a tour of Washington D.C. is an intense four to five day learning experience which needs to be balanced with some good old fashioned fun. Request a Quote for a student travel tour of Washington D.C. that includes some great dining, shopping and entertainment choices.

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