Educator profile

Sara F. and her students get back to D.C. at long last

Sara F: a Group Leader who experienced a middle school trip to Washington, D.C. with her students
Sara F., Group Leader

Here’s a story that’s at once totally unique and completely familiar for teachers leading educational tours (or really anyone traveling these days in general): This past fall, Sara F. led a group of freshman and sophomores on a class trip to Washington, D.C.

Pretty standard so far. But when the trip was originally planned, it was for a group of middle schoolers. And it was scheduled for the spring…of 2020. So, it wasn’t exactly the middle school trip to Washington, D.C. everyone had in mind. But thanks to an open mind, a determination to travel, constant communication with EF, and a bit of patience, Sara and her group were able to keep their options open and return to the road when the time was right.

Worth the wait

Even though it took longer to get there than anticipated, once they arrived back home, it was clear the life-changing effects of travel were completely unaffected by the delay. “We landed in Washington, D.C. and we showed them the world and we showed them how incredible travel is and how great it is to see new things,” reflects Sara, a seventh-grade science and technology teacher from Iowa. “I was so impressed…seeing how much the kids loved it and seeing these kids just grow and mature.”

Sara had seen that outcome after previous class trips. She was well aware of exactly how impactful the travel experience is for students. She never gave up on giving her students the opportunity and instead reinforced her collaboration with EF to reschedule the trip.

Various exciting places to see on a middle school trip to Washington, D.C.

At left: Sara and one of her twin sons, who traveled on tour with his classmates. Center: Sara’s group takes a group shot in front of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial. At right: Members of the group walk the National Mall together.

Getting back on track

As time passed from their original departure date, the anticipation to travel only grew stronger. “Our kids had gotten to the point where they really wanted to take this trip and they were going to do what they needed to, to make it work for them,” Sara says. Dedicated to making sure her students got a chance to travel, Sara worked closely with EF to get her group safely to D.C. and home again. With crystal clear lines of communication, Sara and EF were able to continually make progress toward their shared goal by quickly adapting to the new, ever-changing landscape.

For starters, high school schedules are different than middle school schedules. To find a time that worked for the whole group, Sara’s Tour Consultant worked around football, volleyball, and cross-country playoffs before settling on a few days in November.

Getting everyone aligned was just step one. With pandemic guidelines updating rapidly, Sara was able to rely on EF for constant help. She felt confident our experts would have all the up-to-the-minute details, so she repeatedly pointed families to EF for answers and reassurance. Throughout a constant flurry of updates, both Sara and her students’ families saw that safety is EF’s top priority. It allowed everyone to feel fully confident in the COVID protocols and focus instead on the transformative growth of travel.

Once they arrived in D.C., all those moving pieces offered a few pleasant surprises. First and foremost, the new dates opened Sara’s eyes to a different experience for her group. Her school has been taking trips to D.C. for 30 years, always around Easter. But in the future, Sara plans to keep traveling to the nation’s capital in November. “We saw more than we’ve ever seen before. No waiting in line anywhere,” she says. “We got super excited about how slick it was in November and how much we got to see.” That was only the first time their flexibility paid off.

Students exploring monuments outside during a middle school trip to Washington, D.C.

Open to every opportunity

Embracing flexibility is nothing new on an EF tour, though. The best memories often come from the most unexpected moments. Which is exactly what happened for Sara’s students.

Their Tour Director, Sandy, discovered they’d have some free time before arriving at the National Air and Space Museum. Thanks to a little late-night research, Sandy realized they’d be right near Manassas Battlefield National Park and could squeeze in a quick tour. She gave herself a crash course on the history and by the next day had coordinated a mini program with one of the park rangers. Before Sara could blink, her students were enjoying an entirely unplanned experience.

“She was just adamant we were going to have the best tour possible,” Sara says of Sandy. “She was putting in extra time to make sure it happened and just going above and beyond.”

Sara and Sandy also acted quickly to take advantage of a less crowded city than they usually see in the spring. One morning, at the last minute, they were able to secure hard-to-get tickets to the National Museum of African American History and Culture, condensing the rest of the day’s activities to take advantage of an opportunity to tour one of D.C.’s very best museums. According to everyone, power walking down the National Mall was totally worth it.

For that reason and more, it ended up being a trip no one in the group will forget. Sara learned lessons about embracing change that will impact the way she takes middle school trips to Washington, D.C. in 2022 and beyond. And her students were finally able to take the trip they’d dreamed of. Thanks to some resolve and an ability to adapt, they’ll have memories (and a newspaper article) to remember for the rest of their lives.

A spotlight on Sara’s group

As class trips return, it’s not just a big deal for students. It’s a big deal for Washington, D.C. Throughout their tour, Sara’s group was followed by a reporter from the Washington Post, who turned their experience into an article about the return of class trips, and tourism in general, to the nation’s capital.

Two middle schoolers enjoying their middle school trip to Washington, D.C.

Sara’s D.C. must-sees

After taking multiple class trips to Washington, D.C. with her students, Sara has a few experiences that always stick out even in a city where you’ll find history and iconic monuments nearly everywhere you look.

Arlington National Cemetery on a middle school trip to Washington, D.C.

Arlington National Cemetery

Watch the changing of the guard, visit the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and, for select groups, participate in a wreath-laying ceremony to honor US veterans.

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Honor Flight Network

While visiting sites like the World War II Memorial, students establish bonds with another generation through introductions and questions while celebrating servicemen and women flown in from around the country.

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Seeing Vietnam Veterans Memorial while on a middle school trip to Washington, D.C.

Vietnam Veterans Memorial

Visit the striking memorial and gaze upon the names of those who sacrificed for the country. Students can create a personal connection by bringing names of family and community members for wall rubbings.

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Jake Minton

Jake is a copywriter at EF. His bucket list includes (but is by no means limited to) snowboarding in Japan, exploring the streets of Nairobi, and snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef.
Middle school trips to Washington, D.C. can look like this

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