Tag Archives: student trip washington dc

Smithsonian National Museum of African Art: New Eyes on the Old World

national-museum-african-artby Howard Clemens

Visit one of the most popular museums in Washington DC and provide for your students a window into the cradle of civilization. First Lady Michelle Obama recently said, “Learning through the arts reinforces critical academic skills . . . and provides students with the skills to creatively solve problems.”

Take student travel groups on docent-led tours of the permanent and visiting and traveling exhibitions, or let them hook into an audio device and tour on their own. The museum website has easy access forms to plan your visit for both tours and museum staff-led workshops. Specific tours – such as the Jambo tour – will be tailored to elementary, junior high or high school curricular needs.

Permanent Exhibits at the National Museum of African Art in D.C.
The National Museum of African Art is often missed by student groups visiting Washington D.C., yet it contains one of the most staggering collections of African art on display in the world. Touring the museum will complement many types of African studies in literature, the arts, politics, and more. This museum is an excellent way to incorporate diversity into any student tour of Washington D.C. and just about any curriculum.

Extensive African Photographs Available for Viewing by Student Groups
At the Museum, student travel groups will find over 350,000 items on display in the Eliot Elisofon Photographic Archives, and that’s just one small portion of the Museum. Here students may also become familiar with the large number of African mosaics on display as well as rare sub-Saharan art on permanent loan from the Walt Disney-Tishman collection. In 2005 the Disney Foundation gave the museum 525 pieces of African art that includes a beautiful 19th century female figure carved from ivory. Since the 1960’s, this particular collection has greatly influenced the study of African art.

Artistic Dialogues Between African and African Diaspora in America
Also on display until January of 2016 is the Conversations exhibit where African art and artists are in conversation with African American art and artists. These contributions help celebrate the museum’s 50th anniversary, providing fruitful dialogue between Africa and the African diaspora. A few of the topics as part of the Conversations exhibit include “Spirituality, Power and Politics, Nature as Metaphor, and the popular Music and Urban Culture.”

Special Exhibitions
There is a special exhibition for the museum’s anniversary called “Connecting the Gems of the Indian Ocean.” The dance and music of the Omani people from East Africa are celebrated. The Al Najoom Dance Troupe is one of the most talented dance groups of Oman and they have been performing for over fifteen years, telling audiences the rich history of their culture through movement and sound. The dances they share are used for religious ceremony as well as everyday life.

Maya Angelou’s Legacy is Celebrated by Museum
The Smithsonian’s mission statement is, “To inspire conversations about the beauty, power, and diversity of African arts and culture worldwide.” The recent death of African American poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou has been on the minds of museum curators and staff. Not long before her death the poet had a public conversation with the museum director Dr. Johnnetta Betsch Cole. You can view that conversation online at this link: http://youtu.be/e8S-mNq3ypg

Online Resources for Student Tour Leaders Preparing to Go to D.C.
Students and faculty can enjoy glimpses at the permanent collection and peek at upcoming traveling exhibitions online at this link: http://africa.si.edu. At the bottom right corner of the Home Page look for the “Radio Africa” link. Students can listen to this 24-hour radio program curated by the museum staff, sampling music from every corner of the African continent. Contact a student travel professional to arrange student group docent-led tours, or signup the class for workshops like the quilt collage workshop. There are also online galleries of student artwork made in the museum workshops or back at home in the classroom after returning from the museum tour.

The National Museum of African Art originally opened its doors with the help of Warren Robbins in June of 1964 in a townhouse that was the home of abolitionist Frederick Douglass. Today it stands a world-class museum with visitors from every corner of the globe, helping place Africa at the center of conversation on the origins of humanity. On display until September, 2015 is a commemorative exhibition: Chief S.O. Alonge: Photographer to the Royal Court of Benin, Nigeria. These historic photographs did a marvelous job documenting the rituals and regalia of the court for more than fifty years, and provide a historical record of studio photography in West Africa. There has never been a better time to bring the class to the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art.

For more information on creating a student travel itinerary of Washington D.C. that includes a visit to the National Museum of African Art, visit http://www.educationaltravelconsultants.com.

Student Travel Groups Visiting Washington DC Gain New Perspectives from Capitol Dome Repair and Restoration

The deterioration of the dome of America’s Capitol Building has taken a toll on this notable historic structure. With the oxidation of the cast iron girders and mortar in particular, the Capitol Building is in dire need of repair.  Old paint needs to be removed, iron and stone repairs are needed and a fresh coat of paint needs to be expertly applied to one of this country’s most popular landmarks.  This important work must take place over a course of time.  The Capitol Dome in Washington D.C. is a marvel of engineering built during the American Civil War and was subject to the pressures of that era.  Now it will be stabilized and improved using contemporary engineering methods.

Over the years, many structural pieces have already been removed from the Capitol as the building has degraded. But the pieces have been removed to protect passersby below. Now a thorough repair to the Capitol dome will begin, and with it will come a new look at historical perspectives of its design and construction for student travel groups.

The U.S. Capitol Building's iconic dome is an American legacy that must be properly preserved. The Capitol Dome is under renovation to improve its structure.

While the improvements to the Capitol are underway, a vast system of white canopies will be installed to protect the public.  The doughnut shaped configuration of the protective canopy will be lit from within at night while workers reconstruct the dome.  Most work will take place in evenings and on weekends, leaving time and space for student tours of Washington D.C.  In many ways this is the best possible time to be a visitor as tours will include much added information surrounding the reconstruction:  the original engineers, proposed drafts, materials, symbolism, and challenges to building in the midst of the bloody Civil War.

Student groups visiting Washington D.C. will take the official U.S. Capitol Building Tour. This is one of the best tours in D.C., with extremely knowledgeable guides who will help history and social studies students become informed about the Capitol’s history and recent renovations. Capitol Building tours take student groups through the vast halls of national sculpture, paintings and tapestries.  Tours begin in the orientation theaters for viewing the short educational film titled, “Out of Many, One.”  All official tours start at 8:50 a.m. and at 3:20 p.m., every Monday through Saturday.  Have a student travel company with experience in organizing educational trips to Washington D.C. schedule the Capitol tour well in advance, to ensure a visit.

Be sure to be part of the special tour “Capitol and the Congress During Civil War.”  This special tour is in honor of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, and will include exclusive stops at the Old Supreme Court Chambers. Be sure to ask a student travel company representative for passes to this special tour.  There are a limited number of passes given out each day, and the tour begins promptly at 3 p.m. Monday through Friday.

The U.S. Capitol Dome was constructed during the Civil War era. Learn more about the repairs that are being done on this historic landmark.

The Capitol offers another special tour that is offered Monday through Friday at 2 p.m.:  the Brumidi Corridors Tour.  Designed by Constantino Brumidi in the mid nineteenth century, these corridors are unique in their mastery of painting and tile work.  This tour is approximately thirty minutes in length and takes groups through the Senate wing on the first floor of the Capitol.  The tour guide will discuss the exquisite paintings on the walls and ceiling of the corridor.  There is no other corridor like it, and this tour is strongly recommended.

Every Monday through Friday at 11 a.m. in Exhibition Hall there is a special thirty-minute program called, “Exhibition Hall Family Program.”  This talk details how the Capitol was expanded over time and how it impacts the laws and what goes into making legislative decisions that change all of our lives.

Students may also visit the restaurant or gift shop in the Capitol Building on the lower level of the Capitol Visitor Center. It is open Monday through Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.. The restaurant serves a wide variety of soups, salads, special entrees, pizzas, and desserts – all recipe items designed to reflect the different regions of the United States. The gift shop specializes in merchandize inspired by the U.S. Capitol’s art and architecture.

Learn more about a school trip to Washington D.C.  Or, request a quote by filling out a short inquiry online.

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.

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.

Washington D.C. and Vicinity – a Revolutionary War Tour

Many student travel groups I have toured with are visiting the East Coast for the first time. I like to offer these types of groups a view of Early American life that spans many of the Eastern states, with a focus on the Revolutionary War period.
In order to understand the Revolutionary War within the larger scheme of things, I advise teachers coordinating student tour groups to visit Yorktown and Mount Vernon in Virginia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Washington D.C. Boston, Massachusettes is also on the list of destinations for the Revolutionary War Tour, but in the interest of keeping the trip brief and manageable, Boston is usually excluded. History and government teachers may want to offer an overview of Boston and the role it played during the Revolutionary War period prior to the student travel trip.

For student tour groups taking the tour from the West Coast or the Midwest, flying into Norfolk, Virginia, and flying out of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania makes a great deal of sense for the Revolutionary War tour because it saves time. Students coming from closer locations may want to consider alternate flying routes to save time and cover the most distance possible. The educational travel professionals at my company schedule the student tour with everyone’s comfort and convenience in mind.


Yorktown Virginia – A Must See on the Student Travel Tour

Yorktown Battlefields are a primary destination for the Revolutionary War tour of the East. In 1781, General Lord Charles Cornwallis surrendered with 8,300 troops, ending the American Revolution in Yorktown. Yet the story leading up to this surrender, and the battles fought before it took place are engaging and numerous. Student travel groups will want to take the 7-mile or 9 mile driving tours of Yorktown Battlefields to have a fuller understanding of the scope of this final battle and Cornwallis’ surrender.

Yorktown Battlefield Museum
The Yorktown Battlefield Museum details it as the place where Virginia’s colonial government was established in 1691. Because of its strategic location on the York River, one of the main tributaries of the Chesapeake Bay, Yorktown was a highly contested Naval post during the Revolutionary War, and so was the appropriate place for the final battle to be fought. Student tour groups will learn a great deal about the culmination of the Revolutionary War at Yorktown and therefore, should not miss this destination.

Teachers may visit http://www.nps.gov/york/forteachers/yorktowneducationalprograms.htm and with enough advance notice, may book special interepretive programs that are in sync with curriculum objectives.


Historic Revolutionary War Sites Near Washington D.C.

Not far from Washington D.C. is one of the most famous estates on American soil. Mount Vernon was George Washington’s Home, and was a working farm as well as an estate home in the Early American style. Both are well preserved. Living history programs including an actress who plays the part of Martha Washington, Our First Lady, and demonstrations of Early American farming techniques are some of the highlights of the Mount Vernon tour. Students can visit the Eighteenth Century house, farm, and gristmill for an authentic glimpse into what it must have been like to live during Washington’s time.

Philadelphia: Important Sites for a Student Tour of Revolutionary War
Since the creation and signing of the Declaration of Independence from British Colonial rule occurred in Philadelphia, many would consider it the birthplace of democracy. Thus, Philadelphia is on the Itinerary for the Revolutionary War Tour. There are many prominent sites to enjoy in Philadelphia.

Independence Hall: Visit the place where the signers of the Declaration of Independence sat and had discourse on this historic document before penning their names in old fashioned ink. Independence Hall is a well preserved and maintained site and is well worth the visit.

Liberty Bell: Though it is broken and not in use the Liberty Bell is on display for all to see now at a special location between 5th and 6th on Market Street in Philadelphia. The Liberty Bell Center has exhibits and a movie to explain the significance of the Liberty Bell in American History.

Betsy Ross House: Nestled in Old City Philadelphia, not far from the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall is Betsy Ross’s historic home. Betsy Ross made the first American flag and is one of the earliest women patriots. Student tour groups will enjoy a short tour of her home and the story of how she made the first American flag.

Christ Church: Located near 2nd Street and above Market, Historic Christ Church dates to 1695 and is an appropriate place to visit for the revolutionary War Tour. Christ Church was one of the first parishes of the Church of England in the new world. The Christ Church Burial Ground includes the tombs of some famous early Americans including Ben Franklin who was interred there. This historic, early American landmark is a site that student groups will not want to miss.

Washington Crossing Park
George Washington led 2,500 troops across the Delaware River on Christmas Day in 1776 from Buck’s County Pennsylvania to Trenton to attack an army of 1,500 and won. This victory came at a low point in the Revolutionary War. Students will want to visit the Pennsylvania side of Washington Crossing to see the museum, and should time permit, cross to the New Jersey side to see the landing area and the road used by the continental army to march to Trenton and attack. The trip to Washington Crossing is a short one hour journey from Philadelphia and well worth it for its historical significance during the Revolutionary period.

There are other historic sites that date back to revolutionary times and are significant. For this tour, I have concentrated on the major high points of the war and the major historic sites. Student travel groups wishing to book a tour with a Revolutionary War theme can email: info@educationaltravelconsultants.com for more information.