Washington DC (a Comprehensive List of Resources to Study or Visit Our Nation’s Capital)

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This post is a work in progress. My hope is to have one of the most comprehensive collections of links and other information for any homeschool family making a trip to Washington D.C. It will take some time to compile it all, so be sure to bookmark this post and come back. Should you have any must know links, books, etc., feel free to leave them in the comments! 
Our family is blessed to have visited our nation’s capital once or twice a year for many years. It’s a trip that is usually coupled with business for my husband, leaving time for Ben and me to explore many field trip opportunities. 
I have wanted to compile a list of some of our favorite resources for studying Washington DC as well as a list of our favorite (mostly) free places to visit for a long time. Since this is “W” week for Blogging through the Alphabet, I think it’s time! 
Many of the resources I will list go beyond just studying about he city itself to learning about the people who have greatly influenced our country, as well as our government. At the bottom, of my own list, I will share some other blogs and websites where you can find even more information! 
Unit Studies, Lapbooks, Notebooking and Other Homeschool Curriculum and Printables
Unit Studies by Amanda Bennett has many unit studies that work well for a study of Washington DC and America’s government, both in her Unit Study Adventures (USA) for grades K-12 and Download N Go (DNG) for grades K-4. Here’s a list of our favorites: 
Heroes of America (ebook for grades 4-8)
Many of these unit studies are currently 40% OFF! Click here to purchase.
Homeschool Share offer several free unit studies/lapbooks that will work for a study of Washington DC as well: 
President’s Lapbook (elementary)
Ancient Rome and How It Affects You Today Unit Study and Notebook Pages (middle school)
Currclick has several great resources to help you along in your study: 
Washington DC Unit Study from Christine’s Country Units
Washington DC Notebooking Pages from NotebookingPages.com
American Government Lapbook from In the Hands of a Child (grades 4-8)
United States Government Buildings, Statues and Memorials, Part 1 and Part Two
Junior Ranger Programs: there are many Junior Ranger Programs for the National Parks Service in and around Washington DC. These booklets are great for studying about any or all of them, but especially the ones you will be visiting. They target students age 6-14.
Visit the National Parks website for a full list of Junior Ranger programs across the U.S.
Free Printables
Washington DC Worksheets from School Express
My Book of Washington DC from Teacher Vision
Sight-Seeing Resources
Washington DC Print & Take” Walking Guides — there are 7 guides total at $5.95 each or get all 7 for $8.95
Books and DVDs
Free for Kindle
iPad/iPhone Apps
Washington D.C. by Kids Discover — Take a tour of Washington, D.C.—past and present—with 3-D animations of the White House, Capitol Building, and Lincoln Memorial. You’ll also enjoy interactive maps of the city, as well as a detailed look at the Declaration of Independence.
My First Trip to Washington D. C. 3D — Join the LIL’ TRAVELERS, HANNA, TOMMY and ARTHUR as they take a wondrous vacation in Washington DC over the Fourth of July holiday. The first in Amazing Books new Lil’ Traveler series, “MY FIRST TRIP TO WASHINGTON DC 3D” is designed for children 3+, packed full of fun and educational facts and is a fantastic way to expose your child to America’s Capitol. 
Kid’s Guide to Washington D. C. — Planning to visit Washington D.C. with your family? The Kids Guide To Washington DC app will give you all the information you need in one convenient place in order to

make the trip truly magical for you and your kids.

Our 10 Favorite FREE Places to Visit
  • National Zoo — The National Zoo is a beautiful urban park offering family fun, education programs, and a peaceful place to enjoy nature. And yes, it is completely free to enter.
  • Bureau of Engraving and Printing — You’ll see how paper money gets printed, cut, sorted and inspected for defects. There is a self guided 35 minutes tour
  •  Arlington National Cemetery — Don’t miss the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns
  • National Air and Space Museum — Hundreds of artifacts on display including the original Wright 1903 Flyer, the Spirit of St. Louis, the Apollo 11 command module, and a lunar rock sample that visitors can touch. 
  • National Postal Museum — The National Postal Museum is divided into galleries that explore America’s postal history from colonial times to the present. Visitors learn how mail has been transported, emphasize the importance of letters and learn about postage stamps. You can even mail yourself a postcard.
  • National Gallery of Art —  The National Gallery of Art hosts many activities that are child- and teen-friendly. Lots of family specific things to do on the site and children’s audio tour as well. Check out the website for lots of kids learning opportunities as well.
  • U.S. Botanic Garden — The United States Botanic Garden (USBG) is a living plant museum. Exhibits interpret the role of plants in supporting earth’s diverse and fragile ecosystems and in enriching human life. The Conservatory and surrounding terraces, Bartholdi Park, and National Garden are all open to the public. 
  • The Washington Monument — The interior opened to the public in 1888. Today, an elevator takes visitors on the 70 second trip up to the 500 foot landing for magnificent views of the city. Arrive early to get your free, timed tickets. If for some reason you cannot get up into the Washington Monument (it’s closed right now due to repairs from the earthquake last year), the other place you can get a wonderful vantage point for looking over the city is from the Clock Tower in the Old Post Office Pavilion.
  • Lincoln Memorial — Kids know a lot about the 16th president from school, and are generally very interested to visit the memorial of Lincoln. They are also quite impressed by the size of this memorial!
  • National Museum of American History — Museum collections reflect the breadth, depth, and complexity of the experiences of the American people, from social and cultural history to the history of science, medicine, and technology. The Museum collects the ordinary as well as the extraordinary and is interested in how objects are made, how they are used, how they express human needs and values, and how they influence society and the lives of individuals. 
Please understand that there are many other places in DC that we love to visit. There will likely be other places you would rather visit besides these. It is really hard to narrow it down to just 10. But because most people visiting the capital are only there for a few days, it’s not possible to see it all. So, Ben and I chose the 10 places we would never want you to miss! 
Getting Around D.C. and Planning Your Visit
Washington, D.C. is a very busy metropolitan area. Parking is at a premium throughout the entire city and driving in the city is quite honestly — crazy! It is highly recommended that you make use of the efficient public transit system (we use the Metro rail). Information and schedules for Metro can be found at www.wmata.com. We also enjoy the Old Town Trolley Tour Hop On, Hop Off service, but it is very expensive. Taking that tour on your first day will give you a great idea of the lay-out of the city though (which can be very confusing). 
Private paid parking garages and lots can be found downtown north of the National Mall. Free on street parking is generally restricted to two hours (ticketing/towing enforced). Limited free day long parking is available along Ohio Drive, SW which is along the Potomac River south of the Lincoln Memorial or in Lots A, B & C south the Thomas Jefferson Memorial.
Wear comfortable shoes; you’re going to walk. A lot. Try not to schedule too many site-seeing excursions in one day. You will spend some time getting from one place to the next, and personally, we have found it much more enjoyable to spend more time at one place (especially the museums) than to visit  many places in one day. Our general rule of thumb is to visit 2 museums a day (one in the morning and one in the afternoon). We can easily spend one entire day in the Air and Space Museum or the National Gallery of Art. 
I’ll soon have more tips to come for this section, including some sample itineraries. 
Helpful Websites and Blogs
National Mall & Memorial Parks — At the heart of our nation’s capital, the National Mall and Memorial Parks is home to iconic structures and rich history. Plan your visit to make the most of your time in this exciting public space.
Memorials and Monuments in Washington D. C. — a listing of all the memorials and monuments in DC.
Smithsonian Museums — information about  all 19 of the Smithsonian museums and National zoo.
Ben’s Guide to the U.S. Government for Kids — Ben’s Guide provides information and activities specifically tailored for educators, parents, and students in K-12. These resources can help teach about our government and how it works. They can also teach about the primary source materials on GPO Access, and how citizens can use GPO Access in carrying out their civic responsibilities.
C&O Canal History Lesson — from Homeschool Coffee Break
If you’re all excited now to visit Washington D.C. (and you should be, it’s awesome!), then I have something else to share with you. Our favorite homeschool convention — Teach Them Diligently — will be taking our nation’s capital by storm next May and Ben and I will be there to share in the excitement! Many more details will be forthcoming, so be sure to follow along on the website for more information! I hope to see you in DC May 16-17, 2014! 


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