In our Teacher’s Planning Guide we have already discussed opportunities of how to personalize your trip, such as meeting with your representatives in Congress, or adding a service learning component. Below are some ideas and thoughts to create a more impactful experience by connecting more deeply with the themes and destinations of the trip.
Teachers that travel during the school year have the advantage of making the trip part of a larger assignment started in the classroom. When students have researched certain memorials or biographies, we’ll make time for them at appropriate sites to present to the group what they’ve learned. Many places are appropriate to leave things, such as flags or flowers at Arlington, while some places it’s appropriate to take something away, such as a rubbing of a name etched in stone. Some teachers will prepare a journal or notebook of questions and reflections to answer at each site; allowing students time to process and reflect ensures that they will have a deeper connection to the material, and a stronger takeaway. Lastly, there are always options to continue the learning after the trip through creative writing, essays, or video projects. For curriculum resources and ideas to use in conjunction with your trip, please visit our Curriculum page.
Connections to Your Community
Making connections to home is a great way to personalize your trip, particularly in Washington, DC. Have your students ask family and relatives if there are veterans of WWII, Korea, or Vietnam, or veterans of the military branches Marine Corps, Navy, or Air Force, and also of Law Enforcement. There are memorials to all of these in DC, and one of your affiliated family members may want to send something personal to have left at one of these memorials. Even if students do not have a direct relation to one of these memorials, some teachers will have students look up and research a name on a memorial, to leave something behind as a show of personal connection. Use on-line databases to find the location of graves in Arlington, or the name of one killed in Vietnam. There are memorials to September 11th in both DC and New York City with the names of victims inscribed inside. At Ellis Island, there are the inscribed names of immigrants processed there on a memorial wall; however this list is affiliated with donor contributions only, so for a more complete list, it is best to use on-line databases ahead of time.
Connecting to Local Needs
There are a number of schools that come prepared not only to engage the minds of their students, but their hearts as well. By making a donation of their time or money to a local charity or organization, students practice being engaged citizens who embrace a sense of responsibility over their community – either in their hometown, or their country. Whether it be a gift left in the name of the school, or actual time volunteering, there are a number of organizations, from local charities to global non-profits that could be potential partners in this endeavor. If you need help finding an organization, or in finding ways to give, please let us know and we can help connect you to organizations we have worked with.
Many historic religious structures have become tour destinations in their own right (National Cathedral and Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in DC, St. Patrick’s in NYC, Bruton Parish in Williamsburg, Christ Church in Philadelphia). Many schools (religious or secular) make plans to visit these structures, and some will even prefer to do so during service times for a more authentic experience. If this interests you, please let us know and we will discuss arranging such a visit!