This is Meghan from Vestal’s 21st Century Classroom and today I am excited to share more ways to make social studies fun and engaging for your students! Last month my post, ‘3 Tips to Make Social Studies Hands-On,’ provided ideas for making social studies come to life in the classroom. This month, as promised, I want to share some places to take your students to experience history outside of the classroom.
We all know that field trip based learning is one of the best ways for our students to make connections and retain information. Unfortunately, budget cuts have made it almost impossible for some schools to take field trips. A few years ago, I was the education director for a children’s museum in Virginia and one thing I learned is it is possible to find a discounted rate for almost any field trip. The problem is the majority of these deals go unadvertised and you have to know the right questions to ask to learn about these deals. I recently wrote a post, ‘Museum Based Learning,’ on my blog all about finding discounts for field trips. But, today I’ve done all the hard work by compiling a list of some of the best social studies field trips in Virginia. I have already called each of these places to find out about the discounts they offer and how to get them for your students.
Field trips are categorized by price. Outreach programming refers to people from an educational institution coming to your classroom to teach a lesson.
Booker T. Washington National Monument (Hardy)- When I first heard of this site I thought it was just a statue, but it is so much more! In addition to a statue of Booker T. Washington, the visitor center hosts an exhibit and short movie about the life of Booker T. Washington. The remainder of this field trip is primarily outdoors as classes walk trails leading to recreations of the farm buildings Booker T. Washington lived in as a boy. These buildings are open and can be explored by students. After walking the trail, make sure to stop by the farm and gardens which feature live animals to learn about life and chores on an 1850’s tobacco farm.
Lynchburg Museum (Lynchburg)- The Lynchburg Museum has several small galleries showcasing the history of central Virginia. While lots of artifacts and didactic information is featured, there are few hands-on components within the exhibit spaces. Hands-on elements are added through additional programming which focuses on Virginia history. For classrooms unable to visit the Lynchburg Museum, outreach programs are available for a small fee. Outreach programming includes hands-on and lecture based options.
Museum visits & hands-on programs: Free for students, teachers, and adults
Outreach programs: $2 per student, teachers and adults are free. Outreach programs are free for Lynchburg City Schools.
University of Virginia (Charlottesville)- UVA has a lot of great activities for students. First, visit the largest known Berlin Wall installation in the United States, “Kings of Freedom.” Four panels of the wall are on display. Next, visit the dorm room of one of UVA’s most famous students, Edgar Allan Poe. UVA has restored his former room to look as it would have looked in 1826 and provides an audio guide to describe Poe’s life at UVA. Finally, take a tour of the UVA campus to learn more about Thomas Jefferson’s ideas for the institution and other famous UVA alumni. I also recommend calling individual departments to see if they offer special programs for students or contact the athletic department to about having UVA athletes visit your school. Many colleges require their athletes to do community service with local schools.
Virginia Historical Society (Richmond)- The Virginia Historical Society has several permanent exhibitions about Virginia history and some rotating exhibits covering various topics in American history. Students will be led on a guided tour of the museum, learning about Virginia’s history from the early Native Americans through today. Hands-on programs, complementing social studies SOLs, can be added onto any tour. This is an especially great field trip for classrooms studying Virginia Studies.
**All school tours and hands-on programs are free but make sure to book your field trip several weeks in advance.
Virginia Holocaust Museum (Richmond)- The Virginia Holocaust Museum was founded by holocaust survivors residing in Virginia and is truly a hidden gem within Virginia. This museum is an incredible experience, educating students about the horrors of the holocaust while reinforcing ideas about acceptance and anti-bullying. The museum offers hands-on exhibits, artifacts, replicas, and didactic information about World War II Germany and concentration camps. Due to some of the images within the museum, The Virginia Holocaust Museum is best suited for middle and high school students. For groups unable to visit, The Virginia Holocaust Museum loans ‘Acceptance Suitcases’ to grades 4-12 which contain a variety of books to help teach acceptance and understanding of other cultures and ideas. Outreach programs are available for some schools and grades levels.
**All school tours are free but make sure to book your field trip several weeks in advance.
Carlyle House Historic Park (Alexandria)- This pre-revolution house allows students to tour an 18th century home to learn about life before the Revolution in Alexandria, Virginia. 3 SOL based, guided tours are offered utilizing artifacts.
Guided Tour: Free for schools in the City of Alexandria, City of Fairfax, City of Falls Church, Arlington Country, Fairfax County, and Loudon County.
All other school districts are $2 per student.
**Grants covering travel costs are available on a first come, first serve basis to Title 1 schools.
D-Day Memorial (Bedford)- As a lover of all things history, I have visited the majority of places on this list. But the D-Day memorial is by far my favorite historical site in all of Virginia. I have been several times and each visit I am moved to tears seeing the representation of the sacrifices made on D-Day. The D-Day Memorial provides students with an incredible, visual narrative of D-Day and the events leading up to it. Schools groups will receive a guided tour of the memorial and exploration time. An SOL based program, featuring World War II artifacts inside an authentic military tent, can be added for an additional cost. Unguided tours are also offered but the cost does not differ much from the guided tour. For school groups who are unable to visit the memorial, outreach programs and lectures are offered.
Guided tour & SOL program: $4 per student and adult for groups of 25 or more, teachers are free, groups with less than 25 students will be charged a flat rate of $100
**Currently, the D-Day Memorial does not have scholarships available but should have scholarships available in the 2016-2017 school year for virtual field trips.
Museum of the Confederacy (Appomattox & Richmond)- The Museum of the Confederacy is located at three different sites, each offering something a little different. Whether you visit the Appomattox campus, the Clay Street Campus- Richmond, or Tredegar Street Campus- Richmond, students will be fully immersed in the Civil War through guided tours, artifacts, and hands-on activities. The museums offer 10 unique programs; all are SOL based and keep students engaged. Last year, I took my students to The Museum of the Confederacy in Appomattox before SOL testing and it helped them to recall a great deal of information right before their test. If your class is studying the Civil War, field trips don’t get better than this. The Museum of the Confederacy has a wide range of pricing options from free to $9 per student. For classes unable to visit the museum, outreach programs are available.
Tredegar Street campus: Free for all students, 1 adult is allowed in free for every 10 students then $7 per person for each additional adult
Clay Street campus: $5.50 per student, 1 adult is allowed in free for every 10 students then $9 per person for each additional adult
Clay Street campus with additional programming: $7 per student, 1 adult is allowed in free for every 10 students then $13.50 per person for each additional adult
Appomattox campus: $5.50 per student, 1 adult is allowed in free for every 10 students then $7 per person for each additional adult
Combination ticket- Richmond campuses only: $8 per student, 1 adult is allowed in free for every 10 students then $16.50 per person for each additional adult
Combination ticket- all campuses: $9 per student, 1 adult is allowed in free for every 10 students then $18 per person for each additional adult
Outreach programs: $75 per class and transportation costs
**Currently, The Museum of the Confederacy does not provide financial assistance to school groups. But, museums are constantly applying for grants so I recommend calling to ask before you book a trip.
Point of Honor (Lynchburg)- Point of Honor, a large family home built in the antebellum era, has had many uses throughout the years. Most significantly, the home was used to house confederate soldiers throughout the Civil War. Today, students can tour the restored home and participate in hands-on programming about colonial jobs.
Student Tours: $3 per student, teachers are free, $5 per parent
Hands-On Programs: ask about additional fees
**All classrooms from Lynchburg City Schools can visit the museum for free.
St. John’s Church (Richmond)- St. John’s Church is the site of Patrick Henry’s famous “Give me liberty or give me death” speech. Here, students can take a guided or self-guided tour of the area and witness reenactments of Patrick Henry’s speech. After the tour, students can go on a scavenger hunt in the church’s cemetery to find the gravestones of several founding fathers. I highly recommend watching a reenactment! The actors dressed as our founding fathers, in the same location the events actually took place will help students truly grasp what life was like in Virginia pre-Revolution and is something they will remember forever.
Guided Tours: $5 per student, $6 per adult
Reenactments: $800 per group
**The “Give Me History!” scholarship is available to Title 1 schools, providing free programming and transportation to disadvantaged students. Preference is given to schools located in the Richmond City and Henrico County region. If you are interested contact their education department to learn how to apply.
The Woodrow WilsonPresidential Library & Museum (Staunton)- In American history, World War I often gets overlooked since we played such a small part in it. The Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library and Museum provides students with an excellent opportunity to learn about the life of Woodrow Wilson and the significance of World War I. All student tours are aligned with SOLs and use hands-on activities and artifacts. Teachers select one of three topics and the tour will focus primarily on the topic selected. Tour topics include life in the 1850’s, the leadership of President Wilson, and World War I.
Guided Tour: $5 per student, teachers are free, $8 per person for each additional adult
**Grants available for both public and private schools to cover transportation costs up to $100. Teachers must apply for this grant by writing a letter that explains how your students will benefit from this field trip and how the experience will be incorporated into future classroom lessons.
Ash Lawn-Highland (Charlottesville)- Visit the home of James Monroe; founding father, fifth president of the United States, and author of the Monroe Doctrine. Ash Lawn-Highland has been restored to how it would have looked during James Monroe’s time. In addition to the house, students will also be able to explore the barn, slave house, and gardens. While this home is much smaller than its neighbor, Monticello, it has been beautifully maintained and offers a lot of great information for students. This is another one of my favorite sites to visit. Ash Lawn-Highland offers a variety of additional hands-on programs covering different SOLs. Topics include farming, the American Revolution, archaeology, and colonial crafts.
Guided tour of house & grounds: $7 per student, teachers are free, $12 per person for additional adults
Hands-on programs: prices vary by program ($5 - $9 per student)
**In December and January discounted rates are available for classrooms with a significant number of students on free or reduced lunch. If found eligible, the discounted rate is $5 per student.
Berkeley Plantation (Charles City)- Berkley Plantation has housed more than one significant event in American history. It was the site of the first Thanksgiving dinner in 1619, the birthplace of Benjamin Harrison, and the birthplace of former president William Henry Harrison. Costume guided tours of the house, as it would have looked in the early 1700’s and gardens are offered for school groups. Museum interpreters are able to adapt their tour based on the age group and the SOLs the teacher would like covered.
Guided Tour: $6 per student, teachers and bus drivers are free, $8.50 per person for each additional adult.
**Call to find out about any discounts available.
Gunston Hall (Mason Neck)- Gunston Hall is the former home of George Mason, author of Virginia’s Declaration of Rights. Gunston Hall offers 3 tiers of tours and programs; the plantation world tour, extraordinary history programs, and Colonial Day. The plantation world tour offers school groups a guided tour of the museum and grounds. Extraordinary history programs include a guided tour and give students the opportunity to interact with colonial actors to learn about colonial jobs and the American Revolution. Extraordinary programs are offered on a limited basis throughout the year so it is important to book these programs as soon as possible. The final type of field trip offered is Colonial Day. Colonial Day is offered on select days (typically one day in the fall and one day in the spring) throughout the year and allow students to participate in all aspects of colonial life including playing colonial games, participating in plantation work, and watching reenactments of important historical events. Outreach programs are offered for select school districts.
Plantation world tour: $5 per student, teachers and bus drivers are free, $7 per person for each additional adult
Extraordinary history program: $7 per person, teachers and bus drivers are free
Colonial Day: $10 per person, teachers and bus drivers are free
Outreach programs: $35 per group (only offered to Arlington County, Fairfax County, Prince William County, and the City of Alexandria school districts)
**Outreach programs are available to Title 1 schools, in the districts listed above, for free.
Jamestown Settlement (Jamestown)- Jamestown is the first permanent settlement in the United States and there is no better way for students to understand the obstacles the settlers faced than to have them experience the sights and sounds of the site. The Jamestown Settlement offers numerous tours and programs to accommodate all grade levels and works hard to accommodate the needs of each teacher. Most of the guides are dressed in costume and answer student questions as Jamestown settlers in the 1600’s. Take a guided tour of the site, add extra hands-on programs to your tour, or customize exactly what you want your field trip to look like. Groups can receive additional discounts by combining your visit to Jamestown with a visit to Yorktown.
General admission & guided tour: $6.50 per student, 1 adult is allowed in free for every 10 students then $17.30 per person for each additional adult
Guided tour & program: $7.25 per student, 1 adult is allowed in free for every 10 students then $19.30 per person for each additional adult
Self-guided tours: $6.50 per student, 1 adult is allowed in free for every 10 students then $15.30 per person for each additional adult
**Jamestown Settlement does receive grants to aid disadvantaged students every school year. How that grant money is disseminated is based on school district and need. Scholarships available for the 2015-2016 school year are gone but start checking over the summer to see what scholarships will be available for the 2016-2017 school year.
The Mariner’s Museum& Park (Newport News)- Known as "America's National Maritime Museum," this 90,000 square foot space allows students to explore maritime culture, history, and science. The museum hosts many permanent and rotating exhibition spaces utilizing artifacts and hands-on activities. Exhibits cover a range of topics from early explorers to how people used the bathroom at sea hundreds of years ago. ‘Explorers Theater’ offers educational 3D films for an additional price. The Mariner’s Museum offers a variety of educational programs to complement social studies, science, and language arts SOLs. All visits include one program of choice and extra programs can be added for an additional cost. For those unable to visit The Mariner’s Museum, most of the educational programs are also offered as outreach programs. One unique feature The Mainer’s Museum offers is real time, interactive video conferencing for some of its programming. This is one of only a few museums in Virginia currently offering this option.
Museum exploration with 1 program: $9 per student, 1 adult is allowed in free for every 10 students then $9 per person for each additional adult
Museum exploration with 2 programs: $16 per person
Outreach programs: $9 per student
Interactive Video Conference: $125 per program
** The Mariner’s Museum receives grant money at the beginning of each school year to provide financial assistance to schools in need but this is distributed on a first come, first service basis.
Montpelier (Orange)- Virginia is fortunate to be the home of so many founding fathers and former presidents. Montpelier is the home of James Madison, the fourth president of the United States and the person credited as being the author of the American Constitution. Students will be given a guided tour of the mansion and grounds which is tailored to the age and grade level of students. Montpelier offers more than 15 hands-on programs to complement social studies SOLs. Topics include the Constitution, the American Revolution, colonial life, and the lives of James and Dolly Madison. Up to 3 additional programs can be added to your tour for no additional cost which is an excellent value.
Guided tour of house & grounds: $10 per person, lead teacher is free, 1 adult is allowed entry at the rate of $10 per person for every 10 students then $16 per person for each additional adult
1-3 hands-on programs: can be added to your visit at no additional cost
**Discounts offered varied throughout the year depending on grants Montpelier’s education department receives. If your school has more than 50% of students on free or reduced lunch, it would be a good idea to call before booking to see if they have any grants you are eligible for. For groups with special needs students, any adults required to provide assistance are free but make sure to let the education department know how many assistants you will be bringing.
Monticello (Charlottesville)- Every Virginian needs to experience Monticello at least once (although I might be a little biased since Thomas Jefferson is my favorite president). Monticello has so much to offer, it is easy to spend the entire day on site. Groups will explore the life and legacy of America’s third president and author of the Declaration of Independence. All groups receive a guided tour of the house, exploration of the grounds and gravesite, and admittance to the visitor’s center. The visitor’s center features a looping video about the life of Thomas Jefferson and a museum. Monticello also offers additional programming that ranges from 2-4 hours in length, covering topics such as daily life at Monticello, architecture, and contributions Thomas Jefferson made to the United States.
Guided tour of the house & grounds: $8 per student, 1 teacher is allowed in for free for every 23 students then $20 per person for each additional adult
Additional programs: $10 per student
**Monticello offers individual scholarships to students who receive free or reduced lunch. Teachers must submit a written request with the number of scholarships needed, prior to the visit. Whole class scholarships are available by submitting an application on the Monticello website. All scholarships are available on a first come, first serve basis and special attention is given to schools with higher than average poverty levels, Title 1 schools, and schools with a substantial number of students on free or reduced lunch.
Mount Vernon (Mount Vernon)- Explore the life and legacy of America’s first president, George Washington. There is so much to do and see at Mount Vernon! All groups receive a tour of the mansion and exploration of the outbuildings, blacksmith shop, Pioneer Farm, and Distillery & Gristmill. School groups are also given access to Donald W. Reynolds Museum and Education Center which hosts numerous hands-on exhibit spaces and a special effects movie theater. Extra programs can be added for an additional cost, covering topics such as colonial life, slavery, the life of George Washington, and the Revolutionary War.
School group rates: $9 per student, 1 free teacher for every 20 students, 1 adult is required for every 10 students at the rate of $9 per person, $14 per person for each additional adult
Additional Programs: Pricing for additional programs varies and range from free to $2 per student
**Qualified Title 1 schools can request for scholarships of up to 50% off student costs.
Yorktown Victory Center (Yorktown)- Yorktown Victory Center immerses students in the sights and sounds of all aspects of the Revolutionary War. Yorktown Victory Center offers tours and programs to accommodate all grade levels and can customize programs to help meet the teacher’s needs. Many of the guides are dressed in costume and answer student questions as soldiers fighting in the American Revolution. Groups can receive additional discounts by combining your visit to Yorktown with a visit to Jamestown.
General admission & guided tour: $6.50 per student, 1 adult is allowed in free for every 10 students then $10.75 per person for each additional adult
Guided tour & program: $7.25 per student, 1 adult is allowed in free for every 10 students then $12.75 per person for each additional adult
Self-guided tours: $6.50 per student, 1 adult is allowed in free for every 10 students then $8.75 per person for each additional adult
**Yorktown Victory Center does receive grants to aid disadvantaged students every year. How that grant money is disseminated is based on school district and need. Scholarships for the 2015-2016 school year are gone but start checking over the summer to see what scholarships will be available for the 2016-2017 school year.
Colonial Williamsburg (Williamsburg)- Colonial Williamsburg is one of the biggest and best living history museums in the country! I took a group of students to Colonial Williamsburg and could not believe how well it complemented the Virginia Studies SOLs. The reason for this is Colonial Williamsburg customizes your tour to exactly what you want it to be. Their education department will talk to you prior to your visit to find out if there are any topics you would like emphasized or discussed during your tour. They take the information you give them and combine it with SOL based guided tours already offered, creating an amazing experience for students. Reenactments happen frequently and costumed interpreters will stop your students on the street to ask their opinion about the king’s taxes. This is one of the more expensive Virginia field trips but it is definitely worth every penny as I know the sights, sounds, and smells my students experienced at Colonial Williamsburg will stay with them forever.
Guided Tour: prices range from $14-$20 per student, 1 adult is allowed in free for every 10 students then $26-29 per person for each additional adult
**Colonial Williamsburg recently partnered with Ferguson Industries to help disadvantaged students and schools experience all that it has to offer. If finances are preventing your class visit, call to see if your class is eligible.
I hope this will be helpful resource as you try to get your students out in the world to experience all the history that makes up Virginia!