Student travel group leaders and teachers often take school groups to Washington D.C. on history and government tours. Our nation’s capitol has a rich history, and the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government are centrally located there. This makes the trip to Washington D.C. perfect for the study of history and government.
Yet Washington D.C. is also an ideal location for student trips which focus on science based learning. There are numerous points of interest in the Washington D.C. area that complement the study of science including: Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian American & Natural History Museum, NASA Goddard Visitor’s Center, Maryland Science Center, Baltimore National Aquarium, Marian Koshland Science Museum, and the National Zoo. In addition to scheduling visits to these locations on the itinerary, student tour groups can also allow time to visit the U.S. Capitol/Supreme Court, take an illuminated tour of Memorials and Monuments, and see the U.S.S. Barry — all in a three or four day tour.
This article will provide a brief overview of major points of interest for a science tour of Washington D.C.
Smithsonian Air and Space Museum & Smithsonian American Natural History Museum
These two museums are a great starting point for an educational science trip. U.S. explorations of space and innovations in flight are well-documented and preserved in the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. Students can participate in guided tours, or educational programs that are appropriate for specific grade levels. A visit to the Air and Space Museum will provide interactive learning about airplanes, outer space explorations and pivotal moments in U.S. history when American scientists and programs led the world in discoveries in flight and space missions.
The American Natural History Museum provides guided and self-guided tours and educational programs related to the history of the earth: fossils, stones, animals, pre-historic wildlife and remains, oceanic environments, and more. Student tour groups can visit permanent or special exhibits related to their curricular studies and teachers can focus the visit on exhibits which complement actual classroom learning experiences in the natural sciences. A visit to these two Smithsonian Museums provides an excellent opportunity for learning about science.
NASA Goddard Visitor’s Center
At the NASA Goddard Visitor’s Center, student tour groups gain a deeper level of insight into contemporary space exploration. The group can view photographs taken from the Hubble Space Telescope with pictures of planets, galaxies, black holes and views of earth taken from outer space. Students may view movies of earth and outer space in the Science on a Sphere projection room, where film is projected onto a spherical screen. Student groups will also learn about information gathered from satellites and other vehicles designed to explore deep space, through photographs of phenomenon on earth, the sun, and planets. Student education is enhanced through the lens of high tech devices, utilized by the NASA scientists to further our knowledge about the universe.
Maryland Science Center & Baltimore National Aquarium
Located in Baltimore, MD, just an hour outside of Washington D.C., are two premiere attractions for the science student: Maryland Science Center and the Baltimore National Aquarium. The Maryland Science Center has a rooftop observatory as well as nightly Sky and Stars SkiCasts to help the astronomy student interpret the activities of stars, planets, and other celestial bodies and occurrences. Students can watch live chemical and scientific experiments on the Demo stage, see science films projected onto a sphere, or ride on Segways when they tour the Maryland Science Center.
At the Baltimore National Aquarium, students will be especially pleased by the new exhibit, “A Dolphin’s World” an extraordinary Dolphin Show that teaches students about the ocean planet, and the way human behavior in and near the Chesapeake Bay watershed affects the dolphins’ environment on a daily basis. The Baltimore National Aquarium also has a 4-D Immersion Theater with daily shows as well as 16,500 animals on exhibit. It’s no wonder the Baltimore National Aquarium is internationally known and recognized as one of the finest aquariums in the United States. The opportunity to visit the Baltimore National Aquarium will complement any classroom studies on oceanography and life beneath the sea.
Marian Koshland Science Museum
The National Academy of Sciences Marian Koshland Science Museum in Washington D.C. features interactive exhibits that teach visitors about the immediate impact science has on our daily lives. Here students will learn about the importance of safe drinking water, infectious diseases, DNA, and some of the wonders of science. The exhibits are ongoing and will change from time to time. Teachers are advised to check the Museum website to coordinate curricular plans with current exhibits.
The National Zoo is a spectacular showcase for animals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians from a variety of eco-systems around the world. There are numerous exhibits, many with a geographical focus such as on North America, Asia, the Amazon and Africa; exhibits that concentrate on species are: Great Cats, Giant Pandas, Birds, and Asian Elephants. Teachers can access the National Zoo website well in advance of the trip to develop lesson plans that are in sync with the visit. The curriculum guides are grade specific and available for free download, with core materials included for classroom learning, making it easy for teachers to prepare students for the trip to the National Zoo.
Teachers looking to organize a science trip will find a wealth of opportunity for quality educational experiences in Washington D.C. and Baltimore. Some of the finest science museums in the world are located in the capitol city. For more information about a science based student trip and itinerary visit http://www.educationaltravelconsultants.com or email [email protected] for details on scheduling or pricing.