Washington, D.C.

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Smithsonian Student Travel  |  On Campus |  Washington, D.C.

Embark on a transformative adventure this summer in the nation’s capital, where history, culture, and science come alive. On this week-long high school program, join like-minded and intellectually curious peers in Washington, D.C., home to 19 of the Smithsonian’s most distinguished museums, cultural institutions, and research centers, for insider experiences that access the vast resources the Smithsonian has to offer. Based on a centrally located campus, focus on a seminar of your choosing and explore relevant, compelling topics and themes through the Smithsonian lens.

Complement your seminar experience with field visits to world-renowned museums, galleries, and research facilities, engage with subject-matter experts, professional educators, historians, guides, and curators, and go in-depth with your chosen theme. With the nation’s capital as your classroom and a treasure trove of Smithsonian knowledge at your disposal, unearth history, discover unexpected connections, and draw your own conclusions. Expand your horizons as you gain new knowledge, explore a passion or interest, and learn how to hone new or existing skills to help shape the future. A certificate of successful completion will be issued from the Smithsonian at the completion of each week.

July 10, 2021–July 16, 2021 (7 days)
July 18, 2021–July 24, 2021 (7 days)
July 26, 2021–August 1, 2021 (7 days)
Students completing grades: 8–12
Tuition: $2,990 day student, $3,990 residential student + airfare
Typical Group: 50-75 students

Highlights

  • Go behind the scenes in conversation with subject-matter experts

  • Meet with experts and learn firsthand how our culture gets preserved

  • Paddle on the Potomac and play frisbee on the National Mall

  • Debate how specific artifacts speak to the ideals of our nation

Itinerary

This itinerary represents our best projection of the group’s schedule. However, we may implement changes designed to improve the quality of the program.

Arrival Day

Meet your student travel group and your trip leaders at our home base in Washington, D.C. Settle into your accommodations on a centrally located campus, and get to know your fellow students and instructors. 

Washington, D.C. ● 7 days

For the next week, dive deep into the seminar topic of your choosing. Begin the program with a full group welcome dinner and an introduction from a Smithsonian marquee speaker. Spend your mornings and early afternoons with peers and instructors exploring your seminar topic on campus, around D.C., and at museums with Smithsonian curators and educators. Take advantage of hands-on opportunities designed to broaden your knowledge of your chosen subject. Enjoy afternoons and evenings with residential staff and fellow students exploring more of our nation’s capital. Visit the Capitol Building and discuss politics with elected officials, get up close to wildlife at the National Zoo, photograph iconic D.C. landmarks, or attend a baseball game.

Throughout the program, work on an independent project and contribute what you find to the Smithsonian Learning Lab, a curated digital resource of all the Smithsonian has to offer. Your discoveries will live on for future students to explore and build upon, continuing to diffuse knowledge summer after summer. 

At the end of the week, enjoy a final full-group celebration with instructors and peers to reflect on the experiences and knowledge gained. A certificate of successful completion will be issued from The Smithsonian at the end of each week-long session.

Read more about seminar-specific activities in the seminar descriptions below.

Departure Day

Depart from Washington, D.C., to your final destination.

Seminars

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Air & Space

Engineering & the Race to Mars

Seminar Description »
Deepen your understanding of the history of flight during meetings with Smithsonian educators. Consider the scientific voyage from understanding the mechanics of birds wings to the creation of the Wright Flyer, as well as the connections between the exploration of the deep ocean and outer space. Gain unique access to the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum and learn how the science and technology of air travel has evolved into the modern era of space exploration. Meet with historians and scholars to learn about the profound impacts this field has made on history and popular culture alike. Debate the ethics of deep space exploration and better understand the challenges and benefits of colonizing other planets in our solar system.
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Entrepreneurship

Business & American Ingenuity

Seminar Description »
Capitalism is the cornerstone of American economic philosophy. From idea, to invention, to startup, the bootstrapping entrepreneur occupies an influential place in the American narrative. Through unique visits to Smithsonian museums and hands-on experiences alongside business executives, deepen your comprehension of how business has shaped our worldview. Debate the importance of small, family-run businesses against the power and influence of multinational corporations. Compare capitalism to other economic philosophies, consider its successes and failures at particular historical moments, and experience firsthand how American innovation has laid the foundation for future endeavors.
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Race & Social Justice

Building a More Equitable Future

Seminar Description »
Expand your understanding of the history and impacts of racial oppression and systemic injustice in the U.S., and explore inspiring initiatives and movements working to create a more equitable future. Explore the scientific origins of discussions about race and investigate how artistic portrayals of race have impacted national perspective. Examine the ways museums and cultural centers are bringing different perspectives into the conversation around race and identify to tell a more complete story of American history. Hold panel discussions with organizations and communities to broaden your understanding of how we can reframe the conversation around race and equity in America. Meet with elected officials, lobbyists, and advocates to discuss the opportunities and challenges that come with policy creation. Complete your experience by brainstorming concrete plans to work towards a more equitable future in your communities back home.
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Wildlife & Conservation

Protecting Ecosystems & Promoting Biodiversity

Seminar Description »
Scientists argue that the world is currently going through a period of climate change, geologic instability, and mass extinction. Explore these topics and more as you expand your understanding of wildlife conservation and sustainability, with the resources of the Smithsonian to guide you. As the largest research complex in the world, the Smithsonian offers unprecedented insight into the ecological future of our planet. Meet with staff during a visit to the National Zoo and the National Museum of Natural History and see firsthand how wildlife populations are being managed, protected, and restored in habitats around the globe. Help collect data during a visit to the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center and experience what it’s like to work in the field on these initiatives. Through independent projects, discussion panels, and lively debates, gain the skills necessary to become advocates for conservation initiatives back home.
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Art & Influence

Art, Culture, & American Identity

Seminar Description »
View rare masterpieces and explore how art shapes American culture and identity. Create your own works in drawing, painting, and sculpture workshops with local experts, and learn the discipline it takes to create meaningful pieces. Visit the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the National Portrait Gallery and discover what a single artwork can tell us about a specific moment in American history, and the ideals of a nation. View the works of U.S.-based artists and discuss how art speaks to the issues of our time, and how art and social justice interact. Go behind the scenes with staff who devote their careers to preserving and restoring our cultural heritage. Finish your seminar with a gallery opening of your own, sharing your work and deeper understanding with your fellow students.
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American Democracy & Media

Elections & the Mechanics of a Democracy

Seminar Description »
With the nation’s capital as your classroom, explore the past, present, and future of American democracy. Deepen your understanding of the founding of our country with unique access to the National Museum of American History. Meet with Smithsonian staff to discuss the principles behind the writing of the Declaration of Independence, and debate whether the same founding ideals are relevant in the 21st century. Climb the steps of the Capitol to meet with legislators and see democracy in action. Hold panel discussions on the role media plays in the political arena, and form your own opinions on social media’s role in regulating information. By deepening your understanding of presidential philosophy, party platforms, and election cycles since America’s founding, come away with the tools necessary to help shape the political future of this country.
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Technology & Innovation

Engineering, Robotics, & Artificial Intelligence

Seminar Description »
From software algorithms to autonomous cars and drones, technology is radically reshaping our lives. In conversations with innovators and experts on the history of technology, explore how 21st century invention and ingenuity will continue to transform life as we know it, fuel social change, and disrupt virtually every industry. Participate in hands-on activities to deepen your understanding of robotics, artificial intelligence, and machine learning, discuss its wide-reaching potential applications, and debate what AI means for our future. Learn about the obscure history of technology and innovation in the U.S., and discuss issues around ethics, privacy, and gender and inclusivity in the tech space today.
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Writing & Digital Storytelling

Writing for Change
Seminar Description »
Human history is an ever-perpetuating narrative with new chapters added each day. Lend your voice to the story. Explore the Smithsonian’s approach to storytelling and bring unknown stories to life in unexpected ways. Then, using the Smithsonian’s resources, give life to a personal interest and share it widely through storytelling. Develop your skills to tell compelling and inspiring stories in one of the most newsworthy cities in the world. Immerse yourself in American culture, history, society, and current events as you learn how to unearth and reveal the untold story; the deeper meaning; and what’s at stake.

Linking Sessions

Students can link multiple sessions of this program and will receive a $500 discount. There will be options for off-campus excursions, activities and programming during the days in-between sessions. Students who choose to stay over in between sessions may choose to participate in on-campus programming and activities, which is included in the tuition, or an off-campus overnight excursion, for which there is a supplemental fee.

What to Expect

Residential & Day Students

This program is open to both residential and day students. Residential students reside on campus for the duration of the program and three meals a day are covered by their tuition. Day students travel from their homes each morning to meet their seminar group after breakfast and remain with their group throughout the day. Day students return home after dinner and the evening activity every night. Lunch and dinner are included in day-student tuition.

A Day On Campus

Due to the dynamic nature of this summer program, each day is different. Here is a snapshot of a day on the Smithsonian On Campus program.

8am Enjoy breakfast with peers and leaders on campus

9am Meet your seminar group for an exclusive visit to one of the Smithsonian’s prestigious museums

12:30pm Break for lunch with a small group of peers at one of D.C.’s many restaurants and cafes

2pm Head out for an afternoon activity, like playing frisbee on the National Mall, exploring the waterfront, or riding bikes through Rock Creek park

6pm Reconvene with the larger group back on campus for dinner

7pm Reflect on the day at the nightly Community Meeting

7:30pm Venture out for your chosen evening activity, such as an open air concert in the park, a visit to the Reflecting Pool in front of the Capitol, or a night photography shoot along the Potomac

10:30pm Return to campus for the evening

11pm Lights out.

Physical Activity

This is a physically active summer program. You can expect to participate in activities such as hiking, swimming, biking, and frisbee. You do not need to be at peak fitness to participate, but it is important that you have a desire to be physically active, and that you are excited about trying all activities.

Accommodations

Students and staff reside in conveniently located dorm-style accommodations. Rooms are residential-style singles, doubles, or triples with shared bathroom facilities on the floor separated by gender. Dorms common areas for socializing, and students have access to laundry facilities. Staff reside on the dormitory floors with students.

Climate

Summers in Washington, D.C., are warm with highs in the mid-80s °F and lows in the 60s. Summers can also be humid, and students can expect some intermittent rain.

Meals

We enjoy breakfasts at our accommodations, and lunches and dinners consist of outdoor picnics and visits to cafes and restaurants.

Sign up for two programs & save $500!

$300 tuition discount + no application fee