Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Guest Post - Give Students Tour of the Capitol Without Leaving the Classroom


This is a Guest Post by Samantha Peters, an avid blogger and manager of theeducationupdate.com, who enjoys writing about innovative educational resources that help teachers improve learning in the classroom. 

Give Students Tour of the Capitol Without Leaving the Classroom

The United States is a big country. This is great for the sake of diversity and fruitfulness, but not so good for folks wanting to get from one place to another. Indeed, millions of American teachers face this fact every year when they create their lesson plans on the United States' Capitol, Washington, DC. Teachers on the Eastern seaboard or a few hundred miles Westward are able to conceivably take students on an extended trip to the Capitol, while educators everywhere else face high expense and other challenges that make such a journey impractical. Instead, they must settle on books and videos to teach students about the engine of American democracy.

That is, if they don’t take advantage of the variety of virtual tours available online courtesy of the federal government. While Uncle Sam’s Internet presence helps you get your student loan online, interpret tax information, and determine mortgage rates, it’s also an effective tool used in helping to keep the public more informed about the government and its history. If you aren’t able to take your class to the Capitol, then use the free virtual tours available on the following sites to get them as close as possible:



It’s almost impossible to secure a student tour of the interior of the White House these days, so you really have nothing to lose by using the virtual tour made available on the White House website. For security reasons, it isn’t as detailed as others on the list, but it does offer a glimpse into every non-private room in the home of our Commander-in-Chief.


Nominated for a Webby last year, the Architect’s Virtual Capitol is a highly interactive and deeply informative jumping off point for educators explaining the structure of the U.S. Capitol Building. Through videos as well as a three-dimensional reconstruction of Capitol Campus, students can come as close as possible to actually being on the grounds of Congress.


What this alternative tour of the Capitol lacks in interactivity it makes up for in its catalog of historically significant events. Whenever you select a room to pan around, a list covering every major incident that took place in that space is provided. It’s an excellent way for students to visualize these events occurring.


The awe-inspiring architecture of the Library of Congress as well as the portraits and murals found therein are impossible to explain with words alone. The LOC website features virtual tours of the Main Reading Room and The Great Hall as well as the seven galleries and pavilions that litter the library campus.

In addition, use Google Maps, specifically the street view function, to give your students a more coherent look at their nation’s capital. In fact, Google is already adding the interiors of public spaces to their Maps catalog, so soon many of DC’s sights should be available through this one free online tool.

You may never be able to find the means to take your students to visit Washington, DC, but that doesn’t mean you can’t acquaint them with their nation’s capital on an intimate level. By taking advantage of free virtual tours online, you can bring faraway students as close to the engine of American democracy as possible.


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