I wanted to write a post about the 5th grade trip to Washington, DC that I took my students on this school year. I hope this helps any other teacher(s) who might be planning something like this or maybe this will inspire you to do something like this! I also suggest doing an internet search and finding other schools' itineraries online to help you start to visualize how your trip could go.
What To Do In DC
The first thing I did was think about what I wanted my students to experience mostly having to do with what we had or going to learn in the classroom. I asked them for some suggestions because as much as I wanted it to be a learning experience, I also wanted to make sure they did things that were just plain fun (like the Spy Museum!!). I made a list of the things I wanted to do and started to make an itinerary. To do that, I used a map of DC so that I could plan according to what was closest, etc.
My list consisted of:
- The Spy Museum
- Lincoln Memorial
- WWII Memorial
- Vietnam Memorial
- Arlington Cemetery for JFK & RFK Memorials
- Holocaust Museum (William Penn House coordinated a tour guide who answered our questions throughout the museum)
- Air & Space Museum
- A service learning project that the William Penn House coordinated where we served breakfast at a church to homeless and the poor.
We stayed at the William Penn House which is right on Capital Hill. It provided beds and breakfast each morning! There are 2 rooms that sleep 4 people and 2 rooms that sleep 10 people. This was perfect! They also provided us with a service learning project that ended up being a highlight for many of the students.
I was back and forth on whether I wanted to take a coach bus or our school bus. We ended up taking the school bus because with the coach bus, I would've ended up paying for more than I needed and that was expensive!
I also asked one of my chaperones to drive his car which was where we loaded the students' luggage. They were allowed one luggage bag and one carry-on.
The bus and chaperone car parked at the Union Station parking garage which is not far from where we stayed. I used Parking Panda (app and website) to make these reservations.
Next, I thought about food. I decided that since we were leaving so early in the morning, students would be responsible for packing a morning snack and lunch to eat on the bus on the way there. The William Penn House provided breakfast and I brought hard boiled eggs, bananas, oranges and fruit to keep in their kitchen. I wanted my students to leave with full bellies because we were doing a lot of walking! I found that you can buy meal vouchers which were great! They work in a food court. You buy the vouchers and then eat restaurant in the food court is listed with the items you can choose from that are included in the voucher. We ate at National Place and the Ronald Reagan International Trade Center. I purchased snacks for the students to take with them and eat throughout the day as they got hungry. I also suggested to students to bring their own snacks, but I gave a limit of no more than 12g of sugar in whatever they brought.
19 Students and 4 adults. I chose 2 parents (male and female) and one teacher (male). I created 4 groups of students that each adult was responsible for. I couldn't have chosen any better!! It just so happened that the dad I asked had been to DC many times prior and knew the city really well. He also took tons of videos and pictures and made us a really sweet video depicting the whole trip! The mom I asked did a wonderful job in her "mom role". She very kindly would suggest things to me that I hadn't thought of and was always there to help! Both parents were nonjudgmental and extremely helpful. The teacher I chose helped keep the kids in line when I didn't want to be the "bad guy". It was a perfect fit!
What do the Student Need?
I had students each bring a small bag to carry with them throughout the day and to have on the bus. This bag was to hold a water bottle, snacks, journal, pen and money. A few days before we left for the trip, I had students each bring in the bag so I could "check" it, but mostly so they knew how important it was to have this bag and it not be too big or heavy.
I also emailed them each the letter and itinerary I sent to their parents. Some students chose to print this out and referred to it throughout the week.
Students also needed $10 for dinner on the way back to NC on our last day. I collected this when we loaded the bus in the morning.
Again, they were responsible for morning snack and lunch for the ride into DC.
Metro Cards and the Metro
Because we were staying at the William Penn House, we were only a few blocks from the Metro. There is a website that allows you to plan how much your traveling will cost. I am not sure if you can order these online, but if you can, I suggest doing that! We purchased metro cards on our first trip out. I made sure that the chaperones and I collected each card from students after they were used. This was also a really great "double-check" that we had everyone!
Keeping Parents in the Loop
I highly suggest downloading the app called REMIND. This is an app that allows parents to subscribe to group text messages and picture messages. I had parents subscribe on Back to School Night and reminded them to do so again before we left on our trip. I was able to text them things like when we arrived to DC, pictures from the different tours we did and kept them updated on our arrival back to school on Friday. Also, each night, I emailed a brief synopsis of what we did that day. This helped keep their anxiety levels at bay and was great for them to feel included.
Now the fun part - PICTURES!
Breakfast at William Penn House
Arlington National Cemetery
Silent Reflection & Journal Writing at the JFK Memorial
Air & Space Museum - History of African Americans in Flight
A Real Astronaut Outfit
Holocaust Museum with the tour guides from William Penn House
The White House
Night Tour - Washington Monument
Service Learning - Serve breakfast to the homeless and poor