How Can The Smithsonian Institution Support Students’ Learning In Washington, DC?

There’s one great saying we all love to hold onto… ‘the best things in life are free’. Never is this more fitting when we consider the monumental Smithsonian Institution; the collection of museums that is sure to create wonder and intrigue amongst your students.

Washington, DC has given many gifts to the world, but maybe none so greater than knowledge. Knowledge is something we all feed off of in one form or another and it is Washington, DC’s very own collection that succeeds in enlightening us all.

If you are already embarking on a school trip to Washington, DC you may have already created a jam-packed itinerary from our article on our top 5 attractions in Washington, DC. The Smithsonian, however, deserves a spotlight of its own and must not be overlooked when creating an itinerary achievable by foot. To maximise your students’ time in the capital, be sure to allocate a suitable amount to the Smithsonian Institution – time of which will indeed be well spent.

Open eyes and minds in Washington, DC

Made up of 19 museum and galleries, the Smithsonian is conveniently spread out around DC’s metro area. One of the collection’s most popular museums is the National Museum of Natural History. It’s easy to see why this museum featured in the film Night at the Museum 2 with its 126 million specimens which are brought to life by an array of informative and multimedia displays. 

Students discussing exhibit in the museum

Engaging students in much more that dinosaurs, the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC allows students to develop skills of enquiry and see first-hand relics of the past. Stretching across numerous time periods, historians will be kept happy with collections stretching from the mysteries of Easter Island to the Egyptians.

How the world has evolved

Students looking at Henry the elephant at the Smithsonian

Students will not only learn how humanity has evolved as a specie. While students’ minds may be fixated on the dominating image of Henry, the elephant (located in the Rotunda), school groups visiting the Smithsonian Museums will also have the opportunity to learn about the effect of man-made inventions. 

Providing such insight not only allows students to place notable events in time, but place significance on the far-reaching impact of technology. From seeing the Wright brothers’ plane in the Air & Space Museum to seeing an Air France Concorde, students will be able to identify change of time.

Impactful learning in Washington, DC

Seeing the size of a giant squid or understanding the powerful messages by significant figures Michelle Obama makes learning all the more real for students. It brings context, value and worth to their efforts in comprehending what is taught and extending their knowledge through questions and enquiry. The sheer scale of a single museum within the Smithsonian Institution allows for endless possibilities for school groups to narrow in their focus for part of their stay on site, before giving students the freedom to explore and extend their knowledge through choice.

Top Smithsonian Museum for students

  • National Museum of Natural History (A must-visit for school groups)
  • National Air & Space Museum (Popular with cross-curricular groups)
  • Museum of American History (Popular with history teachers)
  • National Portrait Gallery (Popular with groups travelling with an art focus)
  • National Museum of the American Indian (Popular with cross-curricular groups)
Students exploring range of multimedia displays

Good to know
The Smithsonian Museums feature self-service dining facilities. Larger groups travelling in the Spring and Summer terms can speak to their Tour Co-ordinator for special arrangements during peak travel periods.

Found on the fortune of British scientist James Smithson, the Institution was set up for the ‘establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge among men’. While Mr Smithson never actually ventured to Washington, DC to see the fruits of fortune, your school group can and do so safe in the knowledge that both the boys and girls in your groups will be embarking on their own adventure as lifelong learners. 

Contact the team to learn more about how you can incorporate the Smithsonian Institution into your next school trip to Washington, DC and learn more about group tours available.

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