Plan Your Field Trip

Boy enjoying stereo viewer at the Museum

There is always something going on at the National Museum of American History! Check out our exciting array of daily programs, exhibitions, and materials.

 This page is divided into the following segments:

PLEASE NOTE: With the ongoing renovations of our west wing, be sure to check our exhibitions page for the latest information about what’s on view.
 

Things to Do

  • 

Learn the story behind our national anthem, consider the roles of the President, explore Americans’ sacrifice in wartime, discover 200 years of family history in a New England house and more in our exhibitions.
  • Get your hands on history with our interactive carts.
  • Choose your favorite way to see the museum with a self-guided tour.
  • Make the most of your visit with lesson plans related to the museum's exhibitions. 

Prepare for Your Visit



Register your group:

Complete the online registration form to help us better serve you. Groups that register will receive one free full color museum guide for each chaperone upon arrival at the Museum, up to 6 guides per registered group.

Consider accessibility concerns:

The Museum's entrances, exhibitions, restrooms, and shopping and dining areas are fully accessible. See our accessibility page for specific amenities and to request an interpreter.  The Museum has developed tip sheets and guides for students with cognitive or sensory disabilities who plan to visit the exhibitions America on the Move and the Star-Spangled Banner.

Plan for lunch:

Groups sales for lunches in our Stars and Stripes Cafe may be purchased through the group sales page. Please note that group lunches must be paid in advance of the visit, and if you pick up vouchers at the Smithsonian, you will have to do so at the IMAX box office at the National Museum of Natural History.

Brown bag lunches may be eaten outside on our terrace or on the National Mall. We do not offer storage or eating facilities for brown bag lunches inside the Museum.

Recruit chaperones:

Students in the museum must be supervised at all times.  It is vital that chaperones and teachers accompany students while in the building, both to monitor behavior and to ensure students’ safety. The required student-chaperone ratios are:

  • 1 adult for every 5 students, grades pre-k through 2
  • 1 adult for every 10 students, grades 3 – 7
  • 1 adult for every 15 students, grades 8 – 12

Plan your route:

The Museum has over 150,000 square feet of public space, and it is easy to get disoriented or lost. We recommend printing museum maps for students and chaperones. Printable maps can be located here.



Prepare your students:

This orientation video for students outlines some of the most exciting exhibitions at the National Museum of American History. The video also illustrates a few museum dos and don'ts.



 

There’s one for teachers, too: this orientation video outlines some of the logistical details to consider when planning a field trip to the Museum.

 

Self-Guides

There are lots of ways to think about taking a general visit to the National Museum of American History.  These blog posts will give you a few ideas for organizing a general visit:

Think thematically: What objects symbolize America? What represents justice? This post suggests big questions that students can discuss as part of a visit to the Museum.

Museums are mobile-friendly: A teacher shares his plans for organizing a technology-rich trip for high school students.

Take a look in a book: This post suggests using picture books with young children to prepare them for visits and to help them understand what they see.

Students can also explore the Museum and answer questions about what they see by using these self-guides. Be sure to download these materials before your visit.

Find Yourself in American History!

Help students find their American history personality with a quiz then find objects selected especially for them with this new set of guides. Designed for students in middle and high school, four of these guides--The Naturalist, Storyteller, Innovator, and Discoverer--can be found in print form in the Museum beginning on April 15.

 

   

For All Grades

Highlights
See a few of the most popular objects in the Museum with this guide, designed for all ages.

Ask Yourself Exhibition Guides
These activities are designed to bring structure to a class trip while giving students the freedom to follow their own curiosity. By answering the sets of questions, students consider an exhibition as a whole and then focus on what they find most interesting.

For Elementary Grades

Museum Highlights
Grades 4-6 (.pdf) 


The 39 Clues for ages 7 - 11
Test your clue-hunting skills like Amy and Dan Cahill. Also, don’t miss The 39 Clues online field trip: Decoding History.

The 39 Clues guide (.pdf) 


America on the Move Exhibition
How has transportation influenced the way we get what we eat, helped people immigrate and migrate, or affected American businesses? Find out using these self-guides.
Foods on the Move for grades 4-6 


On the Water exhibition for grades 5 - 8
Explore America as a maritime nation with this self-guide.

On the Water guide

American Girl for ages 8 - 13
Explore the worlds of these American Girls by finding objects and photos of their eras throughout the Museum with the American Girl self-guide (.pdf)
or explore life during the Civil War with Addy Walker using the 

Addy's World self-guide (.pdf)

For Middle Grades

America on the Move Exhibition
How has transportation influenced the way we get what we eat, helped people immigrate and migrate, or affected American businesses? Find out using these self-guides.

People on the Move for grades 7-9
Businesses on the Move for grades 7-9


On the Water exhibition for grades 5 - 8
Explore America as a maritime nation with this self-guide.

On the Water guide

Women's History Month for grades 6-12
Take a tour through history and learn how American women have stood up, spoken out, and come together to change the country.
Women's History Month self-guide (.pdf 4K)
Women's History Month self-guide (.pdf 3M)

For High School

America on the Move Exhibition
How has transportation influenced the way we get what we eat, helped people immigrate and migrate, or affected American businesses? Find out using these self-guides.

People on the Move for grades 7-9
Businesses on the Move for grades 7-9

Women's History Month for grades 6-12
Take a tour through history and learn how American women have stood up, spoken out, and come together to change the country.
Women's History Month self-guide (.pdf 4K)
Women's History Month self-guide (.pdf 3M)
 

Other Tips for Visiting



Entering the Museum

To speed entry into the building, please ask students to carry as little as possible (backpacks, bags, etc.). Security checks are now required of Museum visitors, and all bags are thoroughly searched. 



Some Simple Rules

To ensure the enjoyment and safety of all Museum visitors, please share these rules with your students and chaperones:

  • Be considerate of all visitors
  • Walking and talking are appropriate, while running and shouting are not
  • Food, drinks, and gum, are not allowed anywhere in the museum except the designated eating areas
  • Our exhibits are delicate: Please do not touch exhibits or lean on exhibit cases
  • If students or chaperones use MP3 players, cell phones, or other electronics, please be sure that their use does not disturb other visitors
To avoid crowds...

The best time to plan a school visit is during the winter months (January and February). If you plan a visit for the spring months (March through June), which are very crowded, please keep in mind that your group may require extra supervision and you might require additional time for your visit.


 

Beyond Your Visit: Materials for the Classroom, After School Programs, and Home



Smithsonian's History Explorer is your gateway to innovative, standards-based online resources for teaching and learning American history, designed and developed by the National Museum of American History as part of Verizon's Thinkfinity.org consortium. Explore the rich resources of the Museum and bring history to life with artifacts, primary sources, and online tools for the classroom, afterschool programs, and home.


 

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