On the East Coast of America, Washington DC is an ideal educational destination for any student. Washington has been called the most beautifully designed capital in the world and is brimming with things to do and places to see, including national museums, monuments and memorials.
See History in the Making
Home of the president of the United States of America, Washington has, since it was founded by the first American President George Washington in the 18th Century, become one of the major centres of world power, making 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue one of the most famous addresses in the world. The White House itself has become an iconic symbol of the USA, as it has not only been the presidential home for over three centuries, it is a meeting place for world leaders where world-changing events unfold.
The White House is also known as The People’s House and is smaller than you might imagine; it is also open for the public to tour the corridors of power if arranged in advance. The White House provides more than a lesson in modern politics, it serves as a useful history lesson too and school trips can learn the history of the country’s leading men and women who have lived in the house since George Washington moved out at the end of his own presidential term in 1797.
Many of America’s 43 former presidents are also celebrated and remembered, with memorials and monuments to Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson and Franklin D. Roosevelt throughout Washington. The capital is also home to national memorials of those who lost their lives advancing or protecting the American dream.
In the historic, hallowed ground of the Arlington National Cemetery burns the Kennedy Eternal Flame alongside the grave of former president John F. Kennedy. There is also a memorial to those who lost their lives in Space Shuttle Challenger in 1986 and it is home to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the memorial that commemorates America’s war dead.
Washington is also home to the world’s largest museum and research complex, the Smithsonian Institution, which was established in 1846. Nineteen museums and art galleries and nine research facilities lie under the Smithsonian umbrella, including the Air and Space Museum, American History Museum and the National Zoo. Most Smithsonian museums and the National Zoo are free and open daily.
There are over 137 million artefacts, specimens and works of art housed in the Smithsonian collections, from the Star Spangled Banner to the Apollo lunar landing module and Dorothy’s ruby red slippers from The Wizard of Oz, as well as lots of presidential memorabilia. Of course, school trips to Washington DC do not have to be all about politics and history.
Near to Washington is Great Falls Park, a spectacular 800-acre area with fantastic views of the falls, which is popular among Washington residents and tourists alike. Available activities include hiking, kayaking, cycling, rock climbing and horse riding, though you could just choose to take a picnic and enjoy the view.
Peter Smith, a former teacher, has arranged hundreds of educational trips as well as accompanying students on school trips to Washington DC. Now retired, he writes regularly for a number of travel blogs and websites sharing his experiences of travel as education.