Monday 11 Nov, 2013

Top 3 reasons to take a student tour to Washington D.C.


Washington D.C. is a city of immense power. Steeped in epic history and brimming with educational opportunities. Washington is a must see destination when travelling to the United States on an Educational Student Tour. Students return with a deeper understanding of History, Politics and Science while visiting the plethora of attractions available.

Washington has monuments, museums and memorials galore. It has the White House, the Washington Memorial and Ford’s Theatre. Through historic walks and a trip down the National Mall, students will understand the immense power and natural beauty that Washington has to offer.

Here are our top three picks to help guide your exploration of The Federal City.

 1. Ford’s Theatre

Beginning in the 1860’s, Ford’s theatre was the place for the best stage performances of its day. Tragically, it’s also the site of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination  at the hands of John Wilkes Booth. The theatre got it’s start as a place of worship for the Baptist community and its first moniker as a theatre was the Ford Athenaeum. With seating for 2400, it was one of the largest theatres of its day. After Lincoln’s assassination, the theatre was purchased by the government and it was forbidden to ever use the theatre for a place of amusement again.  Since being purchased by the government it has served as a facility for the War Department, the Library of the Surgeon General’s Office and the Army Medical Museum. It is now a designated Historical sight and plays a large role in our Student History Tours.

Can you name the play Lincoln was watching when he was killed?  Answer at the bottom of the post. 

 2. The Washington Monument

When you hear the world Obelisk, you may think of ancient Egypt, the opening scene to 2001: A Space Odyssey, or the Luxor in Las Vegas.  Yet no true obelisk in the world is taller than the Washington Memorial. Comprised of marble, granite, and bluestone gneiss, the monument rises to a height of 169 metres and stands in honour of the first president of the United States, George Washington.

Take a look about 1/3 of the way up the monument and notice the change in colour of the stone. This is due to a hiatus in construction caused by lack of funds and the civil war. The monument was halted between 1854 to 1877.  You’ll find this monumental structure as you venture past the reflecting pool and the National Mall on your tour.

 3. The White House

Here is a little known story of the White House: On Aug 24th, 1812 after defeating the Americans at the Battle of Bladensburg, British troops marched through Washington setting public buildings ablaze. Not since the Revolutionary war had a foreign power captured and occupied the United States capital.  Only the public buildings were burned as the British had strict orders to spare the private buildings. A matter of wartime etiquette. It’s said the burnings were a retaliation against the American troops for acts of destruction and vandalism during their occupation of York (now Toronto).

The interior of the White House was gutted, yet valiant efforts by First Lady Dolley Madison and then slave Paul Jennings to save key portraits of George Washington, White House artifacts and stores of silver lessened the loss. The White House was rebuilt beginning in early 1815 and was finished  by the time of President James Monroe’s inauguration in 1817.

Portrait of the White House burning – by George Munger

In the aftermath of the destruction, calls were made to relocate the capital. Potential candidates Philadelphia and Georgetown were eager to assume the responsibility, but President Madison was reluctant to shift the power away from Washington. Through key investments by local Washington businessmen, construction of the Old Brick Capitol building began. The building was to act as a surrogate house of Congress until the now famous Capitol Building was completed in 1819.

Capitol Building Before and After

Capitol Building Before and After

Whether you call it Washington, The American Rome, The Federal City, or just plain D.C., Washington is a perfect choice for eager learners to visit. Attend a student tour to Washington during the National Cherry Blossom Festival (March 20-April 13 2014) for a special visual treat. Three thousand cherry trees donated by Mayor Yukio Ozaki of Tokyo in 1912 bloom in a gorgeous display of white and pink. Washington will leave your students with an unforgettable mix of Historical, Scientific and Political experiences that they will bring back to the classroom to enrich their learning potential.

Answer to the trivia question: what play was Lincoln watching when he was killed?

Abraham Lincoln was attending the play Our American Cousin when he was shot and killed by John Wilkes Booth.