Tuesday, January 30, 2007

How-To Tuesday # 2 - Teaching to the Trip

For over twenty years, while I was conducting tours for several student tour operators, it never failed to amaze me that the students on my tours had no idea of where they were going, no background on the sites, or appreciation of the significance of many places. I thought it was inexcusable that eighth graders visiting the Capitol in Washington, DC in April didn't know how a bill was passed, what cases were considered by the Supreme Court, or who Franklin Roosevelt was! While I didn't feel it was my responsibility to teach this, I was obliged to in order for them to understand what they were seeing.

There had been no preparation or reference to their classwork!

It is precisely for this reason that there are so many unruly groups running around Washington, Williamsburg, etc.! One can see them at the Smithsonian and the various memorials literally going wild - especially during Easter and spring break)! They are unfocused and unsupervised and totally disinterested in the educational value of the trip, focusing only the social aspects.
As I lamented in a previous post, "They are unable to label their photos!".

When I decided to change tack and become an Educational Travel Program designer rather than a full- time tour guide, one of the questions I initially asked the teachers concerned the ways they expected to prepare their students for the ETP. Some of them never considered this! They were under the impression that all they were to do was sit back and see the sites! That's not educational, that's sightseeing!

I work extremely hard with my teachers to provide some innovative Educational Travel Programs (ETP) reflecting their teaching plans, curricula, objectives, and some personal interests or requests. And all this effort would go to waste if their students were not prepared for the ETP.
But how does one do this?

Some of my teachers are faced with students traveling on the trip who had not been in their classes. Some schools combine two grades so the trip acts as both an introduction and reinforcement. Some school combine with another school (like my Alaska and Missouri schools) in order to be able to afford the program. (In this case the teachers need to be on the same page and communicate. I also like to suggest email /pen pals so the students can get to know one another before the ETP.)

These considerations as well as the inevitable sites along the way (i.e. FDR Memorial, 20th century war memorials etc.) that have nothing to do with the curriculum or state standards, make it necessary to prepare the students in advance of the ETP.

A few of my teachers have developed a Travel Club. All students who are traveling are required to attend one meeting of the club per month where the teachers and/or parents host activities relating to each day of the itinerary. So the first meeting would cover the first day of the itinerary... and so on. Additionally there are some (fun) research projects and reports that can be assigned to the students. My school in Alaska encourages the students to prepare Power Point Presentations before and after the trip. The winning one has his/her Power Point used to 'advertise' the trip for the next class.

To aid my teachers, I arrange to have curriculum materials forwarded to them by the educational sites we plan to visit. Almost all educational departments of museums and historic venues have curriculum materials free of charge for school groups who will be visiting. Occasionally, curriculum-based teaching plans as well as background information can be downloaded from the respective websites. Sometimes a teacher can be fortunate enough to receive a CD-ROM or a DVD. Posters are also popular.

One teacher that I had worked with for over ten years retired and her replacement had a totally different approach to the ETP. When I asked the new teacher what her objectives were, she indicated that she would like to include Annapolis since she was born in Maryland! During the discussion I learned that she also loved Edgar Allen Poe! We've decided to replace Williamsburg and Jamestown (a bold move) with Annapolis and Baltimore (of course, visiting Washington, DC) then head up to an Underground Railroad experience and culminating with a tour of Gettysburg battlefield. To make things more interesting, I have arranged an Edgar Allen Poe night tour to visit his grave and then have an historic character interpreter of Poe step out from behind the grave to recite, The Raven and have a Q&A with those students who are still alive.

Although this is not part of her school or state curriculum, she will be doing her part to introduce the students to Poe through his writings and biography, as well as some study concerning the history of Maryland, the U.S. Naval Academy, Washington, DC, and the Underground Railroad. She is also preparing a workbook/journal. (The necessity of journals and/or workbooks will be discussed in another posting in February.)

She also had her students research the various memorials and statues in DC for a wreath-laying in lieu of the one at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. Each student pulled a memorial or statue from a hat, researched it, and became an advocate for it. There was a vote, and I am pleased to say these students are going to lay the wreath this year at the Korean War Memorial because it was, the forgotten war and the forgotten veterans. She said they also related it to Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as current events surrounding North Korea. Not bad for eighth graders!

Another California public school is embarking on an all New York State ETP! Well, not all New York State as we have to fly into Cleveland, OH, because the flight logistics to Buffalo were too difficult. En route to our original starting place, Niagara Falls, we (yes, I'm on this one) will be breaking up our drive with a visit to the Erie Maritime Museum in Pennsylvania. I'm actually looking forward to my first visit to this museum as they have a recreation of Perry's USS Niagara and present the War of 1812 in depth.

Obviously, New York State history is not part of the California SOL's, but through New York State we can include everything from Native Americans; European explorers; French and Indian War; US War of Independence; War of 1812; Industrial Revolution; the Erie Canal; Water Power/electricity; Geology; the Civil War, yes, the Civil War; the Underground Railroad; Women's Rights; Labor Movement; Immigration; USMA at West Point, and all the usual New York City tour stuff including Mary Poppins on Broadway! The Principal of the school and another administrator or school board member normally accompany this group.

And the personal requests for this group? Cooperstown and a NY deli lunch at Katz's! The ETP Genie was able to grant all his wishes! (Cooperstown was the deal-maker!).

This particular teacher has also adopted the concept of the, 'Travel Club', and is currently busy creating workbooks for the students. he is overwhelmed by the quality of the curriculum materials he has received!
While some teachers might balk at the extra work, many have told me that it has enhanced the classroom work, help to bond the students, and made the actual experience far more meaningful to all.
Teachers with a tremendous workload or family obligations have enlisted the help of teaching assistants, interns, and parents to conduct the meetings.

All really enjoy their trip because they're totally into it!

Preparation is the key!

The Educational Tour Marm

Monday, January 29, 2007

MUSEUM MONDAY #2 - Salem, MA: Peabody Essex Museum

There's More to Salem than Witches!

Throughout my career, I've been extraordinarily dissatisfied with the way Salem, MA has been presented to students.

It has become a commercial, 'witchy' place, where tall, wide-brimmed witches' hats, brooms, black cats, Jack-o-Lanterns, glaring hags, and pagan symbols dominate all the gift shops and displays. Everyday is Halloween and I'm uncomfortable in this milieu; it sends the wrong message. While all this may be quite profitable, it cheapens a charming, hospitable, and historic town.

There is an extremely popular sight and sound presentation in a redundant church reminiscent of the Haunted House at Disney. Very nice people own and operate it; but in my opinion, it’s more sensational than instructive.

There are two other 'witch' venues which are truer to the trials, but they're still a bit, 'over-the-top' in delivery.

I don't want, Blair Witch Project, I want, The Crucible!

So I looked beyond the witchy stuff to explore the other Salem; the Salem of merchants, trade, ships, art, and literature.

I personally enjoy visiting the House of the Seven Gables and the tour is well-run, but in the score of years I have been conducting student tours in this area, incredibly, not one student had ever read the book or had known who Hawthorne was! (I'm not exaggerating! This has been a sad commentary on California curriculum, where most of my schools are from, and the teachers in charge of planning the ETP.) It generally fell to me to introduce Nathaniel Hawthorne and his work in order to prepare them for the tour of the house! Gosh! It must be frustrating for the house guides to deal with students sans background or reference points because almost every student from New England studies Hawthorne, but my West Coast groups are clueless! The guides, bless their hearts, have a cheerful disposition and take this in stride.

Before visiting a literary site, the students ought to be prepared by reading the work or having some background on the author!

Directly across the street from the House of the Seven Gables is, Ye Olde Pepper Companie, America's oldest candy store, that sells shopmade, old-fashioned candy from bygone days. And this is what the students remember!

There is also the Salem Maritime National Historic Site (where Hawthorne was a surveyor at the Customs House) which is part of the National Park Service. At this writing, there is a new Park Superintendent who is starting a re-examination of the site for content and future growth. (I certainly hope that improves their programs and services.)
The Friendship will be going into drydock in May to have some work on her keel.. Unfortunately, I think the site is understaffed due to drastic federal budget cuts affecting the entire NPS. They do have self-guided walking tours.

But the real gem of Salem is the Peabody Essex Museum

Salem's Peabody Essex Museum was founded 1799/

I want to wax lyrical concerning this gorgeous museum complex, but I haven't enough space. The collection is spead amongst thirty galleries and historic properties and they have over 2.4 million items (not counting all the special exhibits they host).

The Ying Tu Tang Chinese merchants house is well worth the visit. I always add it in for my groups so they can see the difference of lifestyles between the Yankee merchants and their counterparts in China. This house reflects three hundred years of habitation and one can even find remnants of Mao and the Cultural Revolution!

There are wonderful educational programs for school groups concerning art, maritime history, and the history of Salem. I personally like, Days of Judgment which is a curriculum/standards-based program on, well, the witchy stuff!

In addition. the Peabody Essex Museum is part of ECHO , Education Through Cultural and Historical Organization, a federally-funded educational and cultural enrichment initiative which also includes the New Bedford Whaling Museum in New Bedford, MA.

Plan at least four hours for proper visit and educational program, but I guarantee, you and your students will want more!

The Educational Tour Marm

Thursday, January 25, 2007


What links these two?

The answer to Figure It Out Friday I:

The clue was New York City's Verrazano-Narrows Bridge which has connected the County of Richmond (Borough of Staten Island) to Kings County ( Borough of Brooklyn) since 1964. It's also where the New York City Marathon begins.

Teachergirl had established that the silhouette was of Robert E. Lee. So if you had figured out about the Verrazano Bridge, Googling/Yahooing Robert E. Lee, New York City, Verrazano, Brooklyn or Staten Island might have given you the clue to the fort. I had also posted a Postcard from New York, so I was in the New York State of Mind!

The fort is Fort Hamilton, which ironically is part of the Washington, DC Military District!

Capt. Robert E. Lee was the Post Engineer (1841-46) at Fort Hamilton which is in the Brooklyn. (Brooklyn is also known as Kings County but was an independent city until it was consolidated into New York City until 1898.)

Even when Lee was in Brooklyn, he wasn't too far away from Richmond! (Bad joke!)

Another Lee/New York Connection: The United States Military Academy at West Point where he was both an outstanding student (1825-1829) graduating second from the top of his class with no demerits, and as Superintendent (1852-55).

An interesting side note: Abner Doubleday, who popularized baseball and took over shortly after Gen. Reynolds was killed during the first day at Gettysburg, was posted as an engineer at Fort Hamilton in the early months of 1861. He was transferred to Fort Sumter where aimed the cannon that fired the first return shot in answer to the Confederate bombardment of the fort on April 12, 1861, thus starting the war.

Visiting: Fort Hamilton has a modest museum which is well worth the visit for history buffs. There are also some splendid vistas of the bridge and harbor.

There are several forts around the New York City area representing the Revolutionary War, War of 1812, the Civil War, and the World Wars. One of the most visited and yet overlooked forts is Castle Clinton; that's where one gets the tickets in New York for the Statue of Liberty!

I have designed a curriculum-based all New York State ETP for a California middle school for this coming April. (Two buses!!!) As I am also conducting it, I shall be reporting on our progress during the course of the program. I'm planning on visiting Ft. Hamilton.

The Educational Tour Marm

THURSDAY XIII:2 - Favorite Authors and Books

These are authors that have more than one book or play that I constantly refer to or re-read:

1. G-d (and various others) - The Bible

2. Sir Winston Spencer Churchill - My Early Life

3. P. G. Wodehouse - Everything

4. A.A. Milne - When We Were Very Young and Now We Are Six

5. Robert Hardy - The Social and Military History of the Long Bow

6. Jane Austen - Everything especially, Sense and Sensibility

7. Dorothy L. Sayers - Everything especially, The Daughter of Time

8. Lindsey Davis - Everything (Detective series based in ancient Rome)

9. J.R. Rowling - The Harry Potter series

10. Charles Dickens - Everything especially, A Tale of Two Cities

11. Homer- The Iliad and the Odyssey

12. William Shakespeare - Anything, especially Hamlet and the histories

13. Lewis Carroll - Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Wordless Wednesday #1 - What Seems to be Missing?

Who is the artist and where does this portrait hang?
(Sorry about the delay, Blogspot seemed to be having some difficulty today and I was unable to post.)

Whatever Wednesdays : Christina Meets Thomas Jefferson

It's the teenagers', "I don't really care", or, "I don't have any control over the situation, so you're going to do what you want, anyway, right?". So totally apathetic.

It's hard to reach many of these teenagers so I have made particular efforts with my Educational Travel Programs to engage students by adding hands-on activities and first person experiences which include musicians, historic reenactors/interpreters, and a supper with an historic person.

Two years ago, a school from Alaska, that I had been associated with for a number of years, had a clique of four 'whatever' girls within the larger group. Nothing seemed to affect or interest them until we had our intimate, Dinner with a Patriot, with Thomas Jefferson as our guest of honor.

Now the gentleman who portrays Mr. Jefferson (as Burgess, Governor of Virginia, or President) is a friend of mine. He is in great demand in Williamsburg, historic sites around the world, and conventions etc.; but he will make himself available, if possible, for my supper program.

He is both personally and professionally, charming, gracious, knowledgeable, and witty.

During the after dinner presentation and subsequent Q&A, it became evident by her uncharacteristic participation and demeanor, Christina was mesmerized.

Our next day was spent in Richmond at St. John's Episcopal Church's Patrick Henry reenactment and then on to Pamplin Historical Park (this was before they had the overnight) and ending at our hotel in Charlottesville.

We were the first group to arrive at Monticello; it was particularly romantic in the morning fog and dew. After visiting the home, dependencies, grounds, and gift shop, we departed for our last stop, Thomas Jefferson's grave, before walking (running) down the hill to our bus.

I gave a short speech about his monument, his epitaph, the differences in calendars, and some of the members of the Jefferson family in the cemetery. The group then disappeared down the winding trail, but Christina stood, transfixed, in front of the large iron fence that surrounded the cemetery and separated her from the grave.

She was weeping.

I called to her, but she wouldn't budge.

I approached her and asked if everything was, OK.
She looked at me, tears streaming down her cheeks and uttered, " It's so sad to see his grave; he was so nice!".

I suppose I could have taken her to task that she couldn't separate the actor from the man who had been dead 178 years, but I thought that it would have been insensitive at that moment. It was probably the first time she had been touched by history and I wanted to encourage her to learn more about him and understand why others who had truly known him had wept, too.

Her attitude completely changed after that incident and she convinced her friends to get involved with the various activities at Harpers Ferry, Gettysburg, and an Underground Railroad program.

The Principal of the school contacted me a couple of months later to tell me that Christina had completed an extra credit report which included a Power Point presentation on Jefferson.

It was quite good.

The Educational Tour Marm

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

HOW-TO TUESDAY # 1 - US Capitol and White House Appointments

How to Make Group Appointments for the
U.S. Capitol and White House

Recently, a number of teachers who had been traveling under the auspices of other companies or on their own, and who were traveling with me for the first time, did not understand how to make their own appointments for the Capitol, White House, Bureau of Engraving and Printing, National Archives Program, or Kennedy Center.

Many had complained that they did not get the appointments that were promised or advertised by tour operators or travel agents.

To be perfectly honest, no one can guarantee appointments with any part of the federal government. Account representatives with tour operators and travel agents do make the initial effort with a generic request (which should be on your school letterhead and faxed to your two U.S. Senators and U.S. Representative), but there is usually no follow-up and simply a shrug of a shoulder, if the appointments fall through.

The Congressional offices are not as responsive to tour operators as they are to bona fide constituents. Some offices I work with actually resent the large companies because they feel their services are being ‘sold’ by the company’s package.

The services of these offices and tours are free for everyone.

So if these appointments are important to your group, then you need to be the proactive one!

I like to start in August. (Yes, I do 'gently nudge' my teachers and then monitor the progress, but then I'm not personally responsible for 50+ groups as many tour account respesentatives are!) All appointments should be made at least six months in advance. No kidding!

Immediately, after you have settled on a date for your Educational Tour Program (ETP) and know exactly when your group will be in Washington, DC, call 202-224-3121, the U.S. Capitol operator (switchboard), who will connect you to the respective offices. Ask for the name of the scheduler of each office for all the Capitol appointments and the White House (the White House scheduler is usually a more senior person than the one who schedules the Capitol appointments etc.).
Be sure to get the correct address and fax number for the DC office.
DO NOT SEND ANYTHING SNAIL MAIL! (I cannot emphasize that enough!) And do not fax anything through your local offices; deal directly with the Washington, DC one.
Write at least three separate letters on your school letterhead to your two Senators and one or two Representatives attached to your school district (sometimes parents and teachers live in a different congressional district from the school.) and fax the letters to them. Call each office to make sure the fax has gone through!

While you should look up the websites for your Senators and Representatives, it is best not to email the request. An initial phone call followed by a fax and follow-up call will get more immediate results and respect, and they will have a hard copy on your letterhead in their hands.

The websites for the Senators and Representatives will also give you direct phone numbers, lists of sights, as well as other tour information, The White House security information is extremely important. Encourage your students to visit these sites to learn more about their legislators and current issues.

Make friends with the schedulers! (You might get a flag that has flown over the Capitol donated to your school!) It is a nice gesture to bring something from your school as a ‘gift’ to thank the the scheduler for his/her time and effort on your behalf! Your students should also send a thank you note after the visit! These people work very hard, and for many, it is their first job after college.

You can also request a meeting. Some of them (i.e. both the Senators from California) even have a morning coffee (coffee and bagels) photo op when Congress is in session.

It’s important to list the sights you want to visit, the exact dates and times (be realistic here, don’t schedule something two hours after your plane is supposed to land!) your group is available. You need to give an indication of the number of participants (Teachers, students, parents, tour guides) that need to be accommodated and in this case a liberal estimate is better than an conservative one as they normally cannot add extra people, but they can subtract!

Call the offices at least once every two weeks to check up to see how things are progressing. As soon as you find out that you have the appointment, please let your ETP provider in on this and fax or send a copy of the confirmation letter or email to them. Do not send the original document; carry the original with you during the trip because in some cases a fax or copy is not accepted!
A good account executive should also follow up on the progress. I've been in the business long enough to know the old-timers on The Hill, so I frequently enlist their aid when the ball has been dropped on my teacher's end and there has been no word two months before the ETP. I'm also not above visiting the congressional office, if I feel they haven't been responsive on that end.
Ask for House and Senate gallery passes! (Not a timed letter pass, but the actual passes.) These are good for the entire session. And here’s a real secret: Anyone can visit the galleries when they are in session (unless it is a closed session for national security). My favorite time is in the evening; when the lanthorn (light) is on under the Statue of Freedom (which is on top of the dome),one can go in and see government in action. If a flag is still flying on the House and or Senate side, that’s where you head to. There are usually no crowds. Call the Capitol operator (202-224-3121) and ask for the Senate and House Democratic or Republican cloakrooms for information as to what is happening. I’ve seen the best debates and votes that way!

A tour of the Capitol can be tricky:

Your group could get up at the crack of dawn and stand in line from 6:00 AM until they start to give out timed tickets at 8:15AM. There is one ticket given out per person, so having only part of the group there, doesn’t cut it. There are no shelters from foul weather or restrooms at the waiting area. The area where one lines up is at the foot of Capitol Hill (west front) on the House side, on the corner across from the US Botanical Gardens, and across from the US Grant Memorial, which faces the National Mall. You need to return to the waiting ‘staging area’ at least 15 minutes before the time on the ticket.

You can get an appointment through your Senators or Representative for a ‘Red Coat’ tour, which is the in-house Capitol Guide Service.

If your request is turned down by the Capitol Guide Service, don’t fret. At that point you need to be firm and charming and work out something with the schedulers. This needs to be done the first and second week of February! They have the ability to ‘pool’ legislative aids from other delegations in order to take care of your group. There is a 15:1 ratio, though, for this; that’s about 4-5 legislative aids per bus group. At Easter/spring break, there is a great deal of competition! If you have a multi-bus move, you would really need to do some fancy juggling!
Someone connected with your school or group has some influence and can pull strings! (My personal favorite!)

You and your students need to pay attention to all the security rules. One of the most important ones is NO LIQUIDS and NO POWDERS. This is non-negotiable. The White House has a much longer list; it's best not to bring ANYTHING in, leave purses etc. on the bus.

After you've done all that is humanly possible on your end, there is the waiting game; it is not unusual for a group to find out one way or another two to three weeks before the ETP! (This is where I make my big bucks!) Dependent on the priorities of the group, I usually keep the days on which appointments have been requested, open, so that there is some flexibility if the appointments do come through at the last minute. (The White House, is particularly famous for this!)
Keep the mornings open. Schedule an early breakfast scheduled for these days. Visit sites like the Smithsonian, Library of Congress, Supreme Court of the US., the Folger Theatre, etc. which are in the immediate area. There should be only two appointments per day otherwise you'll just be stressed out trying to make them all and disappointed when the timing doesn't work out the way it's supposed to on paper.
And then, after everything is set and confirmed, there is always the last minute cancellation due to governmental business and official visits from Heads of State etc.
Ah! Welcome to the wonderful world of Washington, DC!

These sites can be requested through your Senators and Representative:
The White House
U.S. Capitol Tour
Bureau of Engraving and Printing
The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
The Library of Congress
The National Archives - Special Program

Sights not able to be scheduled by Congressional offices:
The US Supreme Court
The United States Holocaust Memorial
The Pentagon
The FBI – closed for tours until further notice
Good luck!
The Educational Tour Marm

Sunday, January 21, 2007

MUSEUM MONDAY # 1 - Overnight Visits

The current blockbuster movie, NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM promises to have the same affect on museum attendance as National Treasure had on Independence Hall and the National Archives.

I'll support anything that gets students interested in history, science, and museums by going out of my way to design a program inserting some components reflecting current movies, TV shows, or music.

In the words of Theodore Roosevelt, "Bully!".

Personally, I've had a love affair with museums ever since my mother enrolled me in several hands-on programs offered by various New York museums. For one or two Saturdays a month from the age of 9 through 16, I toured; I touched; I learned about acquisitions and display; and I sketched. I could only imagine what my reaction would have been to an overnight program in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Cloisters, The Brooklyn Museum, or The American Museum of Natural History! Pure bliss! (The Cloisters experience would have made me feel like a princess in a castle! And wouldn't a New York Public Library at 42nd Street overnight have been fun! These two are not really offered as overnights, I was just dreaming!)

Most students today don't have this background, or indeed, any experience with museums! They have no idea of how to visit a museum or even how an exhibit is planned, created, and maintained. Students, particularly on their respective class tours to Washington, DC, are routinely and most unceremoniously dumped at one of the Smithsonians on the National Mall; they run aimlessly through the museums until they reach the gift shop,
cafeteria, cute students from another school, and/or restrooms. (It's a disgrace that I will tackle in another post at some point.)

Some years ago, while I was working for the pioneer educational tour operator, Educational Field Studies, that, alas!, no longer exists, we considered this problem and the owners decided to initiate a partnership with the Smithsonian Residents Program. The Residents hosted a short presentation in the Arts and Industry Building's, Discovery Theatre, called, The Museum of Me. This presentation was an introduction to
museums and the content ranged from finding the artifact, to figuring it out, to fixing it, and featuring it. There was one more, 'f ', but I can't quite remember what it was, but you get the idea!

Unfortunately this program often came after our Smithsonian Museum visits, so I was obliged to introduce this subject to the students before their first museum visit and use the Museum of Me program as a visual reinforcement. They loved creating the, 'Typical American Teenager's Room at the Turn of the 21st Century' from a 22nd Century Perspective'. (Even the Dominoes pizza box pushed under the bed with a moldy, half eaten slice remaining, was included.) They were delighted to consider that their very rooms could be viewed as an exhibit and moment in history! Sometimes I would ask them to design a museum exhibit dedicated to one of their interests and/or collections.

Now with,
Night at the Museum, students have become excited about visiting museums, especially the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) in New York City (Ross' workplace in Friends!). And the chance to stay overnight has become very appealing to them.

Naturally, these programs are available to a limited number of groups (and the number of participants within these groups may also be restricted), but they should still be investigated as a possibility for your class' Educational Travel Program (ETP). Certainly the cost of a night at the AMNH is less than a quad occupancy room in a New York City hotel!

Invariably, a logistical problem does present itself for many out-of-town groups, particularly if these groups are traveling by air: the sleeping bag. For those who can include one as part of their baggage, fine. But if it seems cumbersome, I would suggest that you make arrangements with a store that is near the museum or facility (Target, K-Mart, Walmart, or discount sporting goods store) to sell you a number of inexpensive sleeping bags ($25 or less) and add it into the cost of the program. Many of these stores can give you a substantial discount if it is for a school trip and there is some volume. And what to do with the sleeping bags after the event? The students can either return with the sleeping bags or donate them to a homeless shelter. (If there are any other suggestions, please feel free to share them, that's what comments are for!)

One overnight experience that does not require sleeping bags is Pamplin Historical Park which is south of Richmond/Petersburg, Virginia in Dinwiddie. It can be easily inserted in a Williamsburg/Washington, DC program.

Not only is Pamplin a wonderful hands-on Civil War park that includes the superb National Museum of the Civil War Soldier, but I can personally vouch for their Overnight Civil War Adventure Camp. To say the overnight camp is awesome, would be an understatement! One of my student groups inaugurated the overnight program.

The visit to the other sites in the park (part of which has been designated a National Landmark) and the museum (interactive with an audio program) can be before or after the overnight experience. A DVD of one of their two films can be purchased in advance to be played either in your classroom or on the bus before arrival; although they do show the film on-site. But why waste the time at a movie when you can be engaged in activities on-site? Curriculum materials and lesson plans are also available through the education department.

I always add in a yummy fried chicken and pulled pork buffet lunch through their food service for the groups, especially after the program; it includes a killer seasonal fruit cobbler!

The military experience starts around 3:00 PM when the new 'recruits receive their uniforms (Union or Confederate - split 50/50) and are mustered in. This is a complete program with both indoor and outdoor activities including drilling, tactics, hands-on discoveries, demonstrations, and a campfire. (The photo above shows Wisteria. one of the historic reenactors, demonstrating a tourniquet in preparation for an amputation. Obviously one of my students thinks this is hilarious!)

The sleeping arrangements vary from a large bunkhouse to pup tents. There are three inch vinyl-covered mattresses which are quite comfortable; a bottom sheet and blanket is provided. (All recruits should bring their own top sheets, pillows, and towels.) During the past two years, I have experienced almost all weather conditions during encampments including torrential rain (twice) and I am glad to report, all remained dry inside huts and tents! Outside, was another story!

The staff are fun and engaging; the program is well-paced and continually keeps the interest of the recruits.

I also suggest all wear long, traditional jeans in any sort of weather or temperature (which not only is practical, but in keeping with historic accuracy), closed shoes (lots of walking and running in tall grass), sweatsuit to sleep in, and bring bug repellent as there are times one is belly to the ground.

Remember that you and your students are going back to the Civil War era. It is important to convey to your students that they need to play the game by following all instructions and orders. There are ways to discipline the troops, but they would prefer not to do that. Fully prepared and cooperative students get the most out of this program.

I am sure that with the popularity of Night in the Museum many more museums will be offering overnight programs to student groups, scouts, and families. Call your favorite museum and ask the education department if one is available, or will be in the future.(And let me know!) If you are contemplating taking your class to the East Coast, you might want to include an overnight program during the course of your ETP. I have been offering overnight programs as part of my East Coast itineraries for a couple of years, and the results have been remarkable!

Below is a sampling of interesting overnight programs:


San Bernardino County Museum Museum Youth Club

San Diego Zoo Roar and Snore


Field Museum - Dozin with the Dinos


Pamplin Historical Park Civil War Adventure Camp

Virginia Air and Space Museum Overnight Program

Washington, D.C.

International Spy Museum Operation Secret Slumber


Independence Seaport Museum Seaport Slumber

New York:

Old Fort Niagara A Day and Night in the Fort

American Museum of Natural History - Sleepover

South Street Seaport: Overnight


Mystic Seaport Mystic Seaport Overnight


Plimoth Plantation Overnight

Battleship Cove Camp Overnight/Camp Cove


The Educational Tour Marm

Saturday, January 20, 2007

What's in a Name?

"What's in a name?

That which we call a rose

By any other word would smell as sweet."

From Romeo and Juliet (II, ii, 1-2)

Juliet never had to come up with a title for her blog!

For years I have been known to my friends and colleagues as, The Tourgoddess, but when I first used that title for this blog (on another blog service) I was cautioned by some friends that it could offend some people who were uncomfortable dealing with a deity - seriously! But I'm stubborn and I went ahead and called it, The Educational Tourgoddess, anyway.

Imagine my surprise when I was visited by a host of pantheists as well as unwanted offers for dates! We were all a bit disappointed.

Time to change the title and service!

However, I wanted to keep the spirit of someone dedicated to educational travel and I gazed over at the illustration that represents me and thought, Aha! Tourmistress!

Do I need to describe the sort of visitors who were attracted by, mistress?

Time to change the title! (I liked this service!)

Now it was head scratching time. Almost every other word or phrase I came up with had either a double entendre attached to it or was already in use.

Except one.

You may have noticed that I prefer vintage illustrations and my 'portrait' is definitely a century old (however, I'm not); I remembered a wonderfully old-fashioned term for a teacher: schoolmarm! Marm! It seemed so right since it related to those who taught in one room schoolhouses. Many of my lessons are within the confines of a bus; isn't that like a one room schoolhouse? I had visions of the Little House on the Prairie schoolhouse being transported at 55mph down the interstate!

So I got busy and Yahoo'd (my personal preference) and Googled and Asked (Hey, what happened to Jeeves?) and Dogpiled, but marm wasn't currently in pop culture or associated with any double entendres that I could see. It's still a respectable word!

I made the decision to separate the two words since Tourmarm looked a bit awkward.

And now,

Drumroll.....Ta Dum!

Welcome to the final christening:

The Educational Tour Marm!


What is the connection between these two?

And why is today's date, January 19, 2007,
significant for one of them?

Answer will appear next Friday!

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Friday Postcard from New York # 1

Start Spreading the News!
New York City is my birthplace; I’m originally from Queens, one of the five boroughs, or counties, that make up New York City. So you can imagine how much I like to show off the city! New Yorkers have a great pride of place, and why not? (Someone once said that I was a provincial cosmopolite: I was provincial because I thought New York was the beginning and end of the world, and I was a cosmopolite because it was!)

Unfortunately, after years of guiding tours for tour operators and travel agents which included New York City, I was frustrated by the limited scope of the New York experience offered to both tourists and students. It was a , give 'em what they want or know, rather than presenting an accurate overview of the city, its history, and its people. New York visitation has been reduced to showing its surface rather than its soul. The lasting impression is an exciting, glitzy, and iconic blur; very much like the Las Vegas casino without the slots.

Perhaps its all the local history I retained from elementary school, my natural curiosity. and wanderlust as an adult resident (combing ethnic neighborhoods for new exotic restaurants) that gives me a unique perspective of the Greatest City in the World!.

Incredibly, it doesn’t register with educational tour operators to present the city it its historic or social context.

New York City: had a vibrant native American heritage; was colonized by the business-savvy, but heavy-handed, Dutch; was taken over by the British in a bloodless coup; saw a great deal of action during the American Revolution; became the first U.S. Capital; was a primary seaport with a significant maritime and mercantile heritage; played an important role in the War Between the States; still remains a clothing manufacturing and fashion center; was a battleground of social, political, labor, and civil rights causes; is considered the gateway to freedom and opportunity for millions of immigrants; reflects both the excesses and philanthropy of the robber barons; endures as a center for the arts and humanities; remains THE financial capital of the world; continues as an international capital by the United Nations; grew as a result of inspired city planning and breath-taking architecture; promotes ethnic diversity; is known for its fabulous food and restaurants; is the story of a city that recovered, and triumphed after the worst terrorist attack on American soil.

It is also the birthplace of Teddy Roosevelt, the home and parish of George Washington during his administration, and the final resting place of President U. S. Grant. (Who's buried in Grant's Tomb?) Although James Monroe died in New York and was initially buried here, his remains were removed to Hollywood, not California, but a venerable and famous cemetery in Richmond, Virginia. (There's a bizarre story about this removal, but perhaps that will be in another post!)

Why not mix in elements of the ‘wild side’ of New York City; the flora, fauna, and geology of Central Park, the wetlands of Jamaica Bay, the recovery of the Hudson River, the Bronx Zoo, and the Botanical Gardens?

And one can even take the subway to the beach!

Now you're getting the true spirit of this great metropolis!

In the following months I shall discuss some of the wonderful opportunities for your students in New York City - and I'm calling on all NYC teachers to contribute!

The Tour Marm
P.S. Just in case you were wondering...The building to the right of the New York City postcard is a very important site for me; it was Kew Gardens General Hospital where I was born. Unfortunately, it no longer exists, which really makes me feel old!

Is anybody there?

The door is open and I'm awaiting my visitors!

There is much I would like to contribute and more that I would like to learn from educators who travel.

Please accept this invitation to ask questions and offer experiences, opinions, and advice concerning educational student travel along the Eastern Seaboard.

I anticipate good company and lively conversation!

The Tour Marm

Thursday XIII - #I


Overlooked Sites in Washington, DC

1. Lincoln Park - Emancipation Statue & Mary McLoed Bethune

2. Folger Shakespeare Library and Theatre

3. Library of Congress - Interior and Exhibits

4. The Summer House - Olmstead's Grotto on Capitol Hill

5. U.S. Botanical Gardens

6. National Japanese American Memorial

7. National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial

8. National Building Museum

9. National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden

10. Daughters of the American Revolution Museum

11. Organization of American States

12. Women's Titanic Memorial

13. Women in Military Service to America Memorial

Many of these sites have free educational programs and tours.
If you have any questions about these sites, please ask!

The Tour Marm

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Postcard from Washington, DC #1


Almost everyone rhapsodizes about Leonardo Da Vinci's Mona Lisa; some of you even remember the song sung so beautifully by the late, great Nat King Cole. But most of you know it as a iconic work of art that is both admired and parodied.
However, Mona Lisa is no comparison to her older, lovlier, and more mysterious 'sister', Ginevra de'Benci who holds court at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC.

Da Vinci painted only three portraits of women that we know of; the third portrait is in Kracow, Poland.

There is a wonderful
documentary, narrated by Meryl Streep, concerning the painting and the voyage to the NGA. It is available through the usual sources or by contacting the NGA directly.

Why not introduce your students to Da Vinci through Ginevra the next time you visit the nation's capital? (The National Gallery of Art is across the National Mall from the Smithsonian's National Museum of Air and Space.)
And while you're there, take a
highlights or themed tour of some of the other great works of art through the auspices of the the NGA's
Educational Department and be sure to enjoy a gelato downstairs while you sing Donovan's, Jennifer Juniper!

The Tour Marm

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Do you know where the original painting is?


This just in from:

So, I'm wondering...I'm wondering how powerful the Internet can be. I'm wondering if it's possible through the power of the Internet to locate the whereabouts of a historic painting that could be worth well over a million dollars. I'm wondering if the power of blogging and emails could locate a painting that has not been documented or seen since 1976. This all started when I was attempting to come up with an idea for a post at American Presidents. I try to post there at least every eight to ten days. As I was looking through the official White House site I stumbled upon the official White House Christmas card and an idea for a post was born. I posted Have You Received Your White House Christmas Card? While I was looking at different cards I came across the Nixon card for 1971 and was simply awestruck by it. The image for the 1971 cards was different. It was a colonial design showing what appreared to be George Washington with a White House under construction. I'd never seen a painting like so I quickly researched it and decided to post the image as my Wordless Wednesday and asked commenters to guess about the picture. Then I would later post about the image and how it was used for an official Christmas card. You can see my postings here and here where I explain more about this unique painting. Firefly over at Bioluminescence left a comment that really intrigued me. She found an article from the year 2,000 which explained how the White House and others were attempting to locate the original painting for this image. It all started in 1930 when the Pennsylvania Roadroad, the largest company in the United States until World War I, commissioned the artist, N.C. Wyeth, to complete a series of images for a poster series titled 'Building the Nation. There were supposed to be twelve images but only four were ever known to be completed. Pennsylvania Railroad later became Penn Central and in 1976 was taken over by Conrail. The White House would love to know the whereabouts of the painting as it is a rare image of George Washington with a scaffolded White House. Wyeth is the only known artist to have painted the White House under construction. Estimates state the painting could be worth well over $1 million dollars. Posters of the image do exist, however, the original painting the posters were taken from has been lost. The last time the painting was documented in in an Appendix dated 1976 for the Pennsylvania Railroad listing items that were to be turned over to Conrail. The painting was listed as having minor surface damage. Perhaps someone took the painting home, not realizing what they had, or perhaps it was given as a present at a retirement dinner. While some believe the painting is gone I don't think so. It's in an office closet underneath things someone thinks is a bunch of junk. It's under someone's bed with all of 'Granddad's stuff' he had when he worked for the railroad. Maybe it's hanging unceremoniously in someone's attic. I need your help to get the word out. Copy this post and put it in an email and send to as many people as you can and ask them to do the same. Place a post on your blog or website. Perhaps one of your readers knows someone who worked for Pennsylvania Railroad or Conrail and knows several other people who did as well. Wouldn't it be fantastic to tell people you helped to locate a painting that had historical significance plus it was worth over $1 million dollars? Will YOU join in with this national scavenger hunt? Information can be obtained through this blog and emails can be sent to historyiselementary@yahoo.com
Please help!
The Tour Marm