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.

Learn more about our 2022 seminar topics below:

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


  • 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


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 • Travel 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. 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 Washington Nationals 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 in the form of a curated digital collection for future students to explore and build upon. 


At the end of the week, enjoy a final full-group celebration with instructors and peers to reflect on the experiences and knowledge gained. 

Departure • Travel Day • Depart from Washington, D.C., to your final destination. 


Air & Space

Engineering & the Race to Mars

Deepen your understanding of the history of flight. 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. Visit 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.


Business & American Ingenuity

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 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.

Race & Social Justice

Building a More Equitable Future

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.

Wildlife & Conservation

Protecting Ecosystems & Promoting Biodiversity

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. Visit 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. Through independent projects, discussion panels, and lively debates, gain the skills necessary to become advocates for conservation initiatives back home.

Art & Influence

Art, Culture, & American Identity

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. Finish your seminar with a gallery opening of your own, sharing your work and deeper understanding with your fellow students.

American Democracy & Media

Elections & the Mechanics of a Democracy

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 a visit to the National Museum of American History. 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.

Technology & Innovation

Engineering, Robotics, & Artificial Intelligence

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.

Writing & Digital Storytelling

Writing for Change

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

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