Road Trip to Washington, D.C.

Last week, we had a free day, and we seized the opportunity to take a day trip all the way to Washington, D.C. 


There was one purpose for our trip to visit the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.  Afterwards, we took a quick walk up to the Washington Monument, but the majority of our day was spent in the one museum.  There was so much to see!

We started with the exhibit entitled "Slavery at Jefferson's Monticello: Paradox of Liberty."  What an important display!


About midway through this past school year, we studied the Revolutionary War and learned of Thomas Jefferson's role in writing the Declaration of Independence.  Later in the year, we studied the Louisiana Purchase and the Lewis & Clark Expedition which occurred during Jefferson's presidency.  We ended our history lessons around the year 1840.  We will pick up the time line of history next school year, and will focus initially on slavery and emancipation.  This exhibit was a perfect bridge to our former and future history studies.


We went on to see an exhibit on American culture and view the actual flag that inspired The Star Spangled Banner to be written.  Years ago when I was a child, my family visited this very same museum and saw the flag.  At that time, it hung in the center over a painted wood frame.  Now, it is seen in very low light.  Still just as moving to see, and perhaps more so as the ambiance of the low light and general somber atmosphere envelopes this particular exhibit.

We spent a lot of time in the "Within These Walls" exhibit as it was literally a house moved from Ipswich, Massachusetts {close to where we lived in New England years ago when we first got married}.  My husband and sons appreciated the insider views to construction, and my daughters liked all the hands on history activities.


Another exhibit showcasing a Revolutionary War gunboat, the Philadelphia, was a big hit for our family.  The actual boat is on display.  A raised platform on the side allows a closer look to the deck and cannons. 

Right before lunch, we viewed the "First Ladies" and "American Presidency" exhibits.  My husband and sons were amazed by how crowded an exhibit on dresses was.  They feigned a bit of interest, but were really just waiting for my daughters and I to finish. 

We all walked the "Price of Freedom" exhibit in quiet reverence.  An interesting Who Am I? A History Mystery brochure allowed for my older children to interact with the Civil War section.  The children used clues within the exhibit to solve the question posed on the brochure. 

After lunch, we walked back to the museum and finished viewing the bottom floor exhibits.  Most of it was economics, industry, Industrial Revolution, and transportation. 


Personally, I liked the navigation, boats, and ships exhibit.  Our youngest loved the exhibit entitled "America on the Move."  It was all about land transportation.  The museum even provided a TripTik for this exhibit.  Opening like a paper map, the TripTik was a basic map with historical pictures of interesting places featured like post cards.  All the places on the map corresponded with different parts of the exhibit.

Truly it was a wonderful experience and helped to summarize all that the children have been learning and will be learning in their American history studies.  One of the neat resources I discovered when researching this particular museum was their educational website.  Packed full with resources, information, games, and learning opportunities, the website is a gold mine of history treasures.  Since you don't need to visit to use the site, I look forward to using it during the upcoming school year.

A few days after our trip, we visited the library and borrowed these two books:
  • The National Anthem, by Elaine Landau - A wealth of fascinating facts about "The Star-Spangled Banner" and the flag that inspired Francis Scott Key's words. 
  • You're a Grand Old Flag, by George M. Cohan, illustrations by Warren Kimble - Though I definitely wanted the children to learn this song, I picked up the book for the folk art illustrations by Kimble.  His work is a fabulous example of American folk art.  In this book, each of the illustrations includes either a flag or a star or stripe pattern.  The last pages include notes about the song and the flag.

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