Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Upcoming Field Trip to the National Museum of American History

By: Kelly McAllester

When you tutor for D.C. Reads you often have unexpected revelations. Some of these revelations, such as when you discover a book your tutee truly loves to read, make every struggle up to that point worth it. Some, however, make you wish you could do something more than just help children learn to read a couple hours a week.

This was the case when I discovered last semester that many of the kids I was tutoring had never visited the National Mall, or been to a single Smithsonian Institution museum. Think back to your own third and fourth grade memories. How many field trips had you been on by the time you left elementary school? I personally remember visiting the state capital, an old mine, and a historic colonial village in the fourth grade alone. It isn’t right that the kids we tutor haven’t been exposed to some of the best museums in the country which are not only located in the same city where they live, but are also free!

When I brought the topic up in an Advocacy Committee meeting, I discovered other tutors and coordinators where thinking what I was thinking. So we decided to take action.

As a result, a sub-committee of the Advocacy Committee is currently planning a field trip for the students we tutor to visit the National Museum of American History and have lunch on the National Mall. The date for the trip has been tentatively set as Sunday, May 2nd, so this past Saturday I went with a group of fellow students to the museum to scope things out.

While the museum doesn’t offer tours to school groups, they do have a very useful website full of activities for all age groups, time periods, and historical themes at this address: http://historyexplorer.americanhistory.si.edu/.

While at the museum we decided to plan a trip around five exhibits: The American Presidency: A Glorious Burden, First Ladies at the Smithsonian, Communities in a Changing Nation: The Promise of 19th-Century America, The Price of Freedom: Americans at War, and a theatrical reenactment of the Greensboro lunch counter sit-in. We plan on using these exhibits not only to engage the students in the history of their nation but also to introduce in a concrete way the various important roles Americans have played in forming our country and the different careers every student can aspire to have as an adult: doctor, scientist, activist, educator, even the President. All of these careers require the solid education D.C. Reads promotes.

I hope that the planned field trip will not only be fun, informative, and inspirational, but also set up a precedent of D.C. Reads acting not only as a tutoring organization but also as a group that exposes students in D.C. to a broader sense of the world they live in and how they can fit into that world as an adult.

Hopefully next semester we will explore dinosaur bones, space shuttles, and Jackson Pollock! Until then, however, I will keep you updated on our progress and hopefully post some pictures of the trip itself.