Kids have fun when they are learning, and stories provide a great way to learn.  The “Aha! Moment” occurs when things come together in our students’ minds, as they understand something they did not understand before.

One way tour organizers can help students with this is to plan a tour around the story of American history in three basic movements: the American Revolution, the Civil War, and 20th Century American History and Government.

This can be done with a tour that begins in Philadelphia, continues to Gettysburg, and concludes in Washington, D.C. Follow along as I walk you through a sample itinerary of what this three-phase tour could look like.

The American Revolution: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

We begin in the 18th Century with the story of the American Revolution.  A good place to start is with Ben Franklin’s print shop and home, and then head off to Carpenter’s Hall, the site of the meetings of the First Continental Congress.  Next, of course, we visit the Liberty Bell, and the Pennsylvania State House, the site of the meetings of the Second Continental Congress and the writing of the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution.

Finally, we visit the National Constitution Center and explore the Constitution of the United States  writing process and the lasting legacy of the Constitution.  A fabulous multimedia presentation celebrates the narrative, discussing the Constitution’s ideas of limited powers, separate branches of government,  and the rights of citizens. Then the storyteller presents the history of the expansion of the meaning of “We the People”, beginning with white landowners and expanding to African Americans and finally women, with the strong challenge that there is still work to do, and that it falls on all of us to champion the cause of equality for all.  This first phase of the story is summarized with Jefferson’s famous words, ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

Learn more about School Trips to Philadelphia

The Civil War: Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

The second movement of the story draws us into the 19th Century where Gettysburg was the site of the greatest battle of the Civil War.  A visit to Dobbins House provides students the visual of an actual hiding place for runaway slaves and the heroism of Reverend Dobbins and his family who provided protection for fugitives at great risk.

Then, a tour of the battlefield and cemetery tells the story of the three-day battle, and the speech that followed four months later, where Lincoln repeated the words of Jefferson, “all men are created equal,” and he used them to challenge the nation to finish the war and bring about a “new birth of freedom” for all former slaves and really for all Americans.

Learn more about School Trips to Gettysburg

20th Century American History and Government: Washington, D.C.

The third movement of the story brings us into the 20th Century where students visit the memorials to Martin Luther King Jr, World War II, Korea, and Vietnam.  And a visit to the US Capitol celebrates a government with limited and divided powers. Students can stand on the spot, in front of the Lincoln Memorial where Dr. King said, “I have a dream that this nation will one day live out the true meaning of its creed, we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal… I have a dream that my little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

Learn more about Schools Trips to Washington, D.C.

This is a way to tell the story of American history that will get kids excited to learn and to understand who they are as Americans and the traditions that have been given to them.  They will have many “Aha! Moments”, and they will come home excited to tell their families what they learned about the story of American history.

Let the experienced staff at NationsClassroom help you put together the perfect historic East Coast itinerary for your students.  Contact us or browse through our sample itineraries, including our popular multi-city tour itineraries.

Originally published November 2018, updated July 2021