The state where America was born – now more than 400 years ago – is also home to Revolutionary and Civil War history; Virginia is also the Mother of Presidents.
Student group travel is a $10 billion a year industry, according to a survey by the Student and Youth Travel Research Institute. Clearly, travel plays an important role in education, whether it's a class trip, a performing band or a competing sports team. And what better destination to help students meet your state learning standards than Virginia, the most history-making state in the nation?
Educators know well that students retain more information by doing and seeing, than simply listening. With renewed emphasis on interactive exhibits, the original James Fort is theirs for the unearthing, Iwo Jima is ready to be stormed, and the Virginia frontier to be discovered. Fun and inspiring, Virginia's museums challenge young, technologically-savvy minds.
A trip to the nation's capital isn't complete without a detour down the George Washington Memorial Parkway to Mount Vernon. Two critically-acclaimed exhibit buildings and five theaters show George Washington in life-size and in 3D. Meet a teen-age Washington as a land surveyor, and then as an elder statesman. In the multi-media theater, it actually snows during a re-enactment of the Revolutionary troops crossing of the Delaware River on Christmas night, 1776.
The National Museum of the Marine Corps in Quantico, an hour south of the capital, immerses visitors in sights and sounds of Marines in action, from the Halls of Montezuma to today's Middle East. Students will meet their own drill instructors, test their marksmanship with an M-16 laser rifle, and feel the ground shake as they land on a replica of Iwo Jima.
At Historic Jamestowne's Archaearium, students share the archaeologist's moment of discovery of remains of the original 1607 James Fort by peering through virtual viewers. Glass floors allow a top down view of remains of the Virginia Colony's 1660 Statehouse. In the visitors center, a theater and exhibits feature artifacts never before displayed. A footbridge approach leads through the island marsh to the river and the site of the James Fort.
Adjacent to Historic Jamestowne are the galleries at Jamestown Settlement. Long a favorite destination for school groups, this "living museum" displays the life of Powhatan Indians. In explaining how they lived, hunted and gathered, the exhibit sheds light on how this Native Americans culture thrived in a coastal environment that from the start threatened to overwhelm English settlers. Students can squat inside replicas of the Godspeed and Discovery that more accurately portray the cramped quarters and limited passenger space on the journey from England.
The State Capitol building in Richmond has an orientation center for a new generation of visitors. Designed by Thomas Jefferson, this stately building is where the oldest continually governing legislative body in America conducts its business. Students sit in members' chairs and participate in a mock legislative session in the House Chambers.
Students hear chirps and roars as they walk through a recreation of a paleontology dig inside the Virginia Museum of Natural History in Martinsville. They'll learn about food chains by dissecting owl pellets and weather systems by playing a Jeopardy-style game.
Virginia stood at the crossroads of the Civil War, and one of the landmarks of modern warfare is now preserved at the Mariners' Museum's Monitor Center in Newport News. A portion of the ironclad warship, the USS Monitor, is preserved here. Students can build their own ironclad warships via computer, walk on the deck of a replica ship, and virtually recover salvage from the ocean depths.
Students experience how their 19th century counterparts learned the three Rs in a one-room school house at the Settlers Museum of Southwest Virginia in Smyth County. After a picnic lunch, school groups help with farm chores such as gathering eggs, harvesting crops, and washing clothes on a washboard. Retired schoolteachers, familiar with Virginia SOLs, often lead the tours.
These are but some of the ways in which Virginia attractions bring the classroom curriculum to life.