The hub of our national government, an iconic commemoration to historical events, and the center of politics and law, there is no better way to teach your students about the functions of government than a school trip to Washington DC. Bring your classroom to life and relive pivotal moments in history as you tour some of DC’s most famed destinations.
1. Capitol Hill
A trip to the U.S. Capitol, the hub of representative democracy, should be on the top of any school tour in Washington DC. While on a tour in Capitol Hill, students can meet with U.S. Senators or Members of Congress, or have a staff-led tour of the gorgeous monument. Students will learn about the functions and uses of the U.S. Capitol, from a working office building to the center of all national legislation.
2. Library of Congress
An underground passage leads from the U.S. Capitol to the Library of Congress, the world’s largest library where you can find one of the last three surviving Gutenberg hand-printed Bibles, a draft of the Declaration of Independence by Jefferson and dozens of galleries filled with exhibits covering a multitude of topics.
3. Smithsonian Museums
The Smithsonian is made up of 19 museums all offering endless opportunities for learning in a wide variety of subjects. This list includes the National Museum of the American Indian where students can gain new perspectives on Native American History & Culture, the new National Museum of African American History & Culture which is setting the bar for state-of-the-art museum experiences, and the always popular National Air & Space Museum.
4. Supreme Court
Students can also tour the first two floors of the Supreme Court, the highest federal court in the U.S. Students can learn about the role of the judicial branch in our government, gaining free access to legal information, court rules and can even attend oral arguments open to the public. Learn of the judicial function of the Courts, the history of the Building, and the famed architecture of the Courtroom.
5. Arlington National Cemetery
A tribute to veterans and home to historic memorials, the Arlington National Cemetery is best known for housing The Tomb of the Unknowns. A highlight of a visit is to see the changing of Tomb Guard sentinels. The Tomb is guarded 24/7 and undergoes this elaborate military ritual every day.
6. Smithsonian’s National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute
Giant pandas, red pandas, gorillas, elephants, cheetahs, zebras, gazelles and Sumatran tigers are just a sample of the nearly 2,000 types of animals living in the National Zoo. Students can watch as zoo members feed the animals, engage in educational talks and watch demonstrations. And visiting is completely free!
7. The International Spy Museum
A KGB poison dart umbrella, the Enigma cipher machine that broke Nazi codes, movie props from James Bond, and other disguised cameras and weapons are just a few of the artifacts students will see while learning about the history of espionage at the International Spy Museum. The museum is moving to a new location in Spring 2019 with expanded interactive exhibits and Never Before Seen Artifacts!
Your journey into the world of news starts before you are even in the doors, as you walk past the day’s headlines from around the world. Inside students can read newspapers from the revolutionary war, record their own news segment, view a piece of the real Berlin Wall, and learn about American history over the years as portrayed and reported through various media outlets. In addition to their impressive collection of interactive exhibits, the Newseum offers educational programs to groups.
9. The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
The Kennedy Center has many musical and theater performances throughout the year, housing the National Symphony Orchestra, the Suzanne Farrell Ballet and the Washington National Opera. Join a free guided tour to learn about the theater’s history and architecture, or get tickets to a performance and treat your students to a once-in-a-lifetime theatrical performance.
10. Ford’s Theater and Petersen House
The site of President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination, Ford’s Theater offers tours, exhibitions and discussions about the Lincoln assassination. Designed to complement your classroom curriculum, come tour the full historic site including the museum, exhibits and the Petersen House, where Lincoln took his last breath.
11. Homes of Famous Individuals
Mt. Vernon offers a glimpse into 18th-century plantation life and the home of George Washington. Guided tours of the mansion and the estate are offered. Or visit the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site, a nine-acre estate with a 21-room Victorian mansion. The first home bought by an African-American in that area, students can learn about slavery abolishment, justice and equality.
12. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
A living memorial and eye-opening experience to the Holocaust, the Holocaust Museum was created in order to “inspire citizens and leaders worldwide to confront hatred, prevent genocide, and promote human dignity.” A narrative history of this time, the museum displays artifacts, film footage and photographs. Recommended for students 11 and up.
13. The National Mall
The National Mall houses some of the most iconic memorials and monuments commemorating our leaders, history and troops. Learn of pivotal moments in history by visiting the Lincoln Memorial, the National World War II Memorial and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Celebrate our history, the heroic actions of American troops and influential leaders of our past while enjoying the breezes off the Potomac River
14. National Archives
Be sure to go north of the National Mall to check out the National Archives. See some of the most important documents concerning America’s history, such as the Charters of Freedom, the Emancipation Proclamation, the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights and the Constitution of the United States.
15. White House
Perhaps the most iconic building representing the U.S. government, the White House is a must-see for any student tour of DC. Students can enter through the black iron gates surrounding the iconic home, walk through the pillars and tour the President’s office and public rooms. However, it is necessary to contact your representative or senator 3 months in advance to plan a tour.
Are you ready to learn more about booking a student tour of Washington DC? Talk to one of our travel experts today and check out our Washington DC student adventures!