Family Travel to Washington D.C.: Celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr.
How do you teach your kids about equality, justice, and respect—respect for different cultures, points of view, and choices?
Family travel can present great opportunities to have natural conversations that lead to learning. And what a better combination for a vacation than one that is both fun and educational!
Family Travel to Washington D.C.
Washington D.C. is one such family vacation destination rich in heritage and ripe for character education discussions.
Take the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial located in the National Mall as an example. It stands as a symbol of democracy, justice, and equality and can teach valuable lessons about celebrating diversity, respecting others, what it takes to achieve your dreams, and freedom.
Let's chat about ways to get there and what to discuss when you are in route and when you arrive.
Mass Transit: Perfect for Family Vacation Transportation
Traveling in cities can be stressful for large or small families. While we love to road trip and take our own car to places in the U.S. or rent a car when we visit locations at further distances, we have found that navigating large cities can be a bit challenging and often expensive. We have fallen in love with taking public transportation and Washington D.C. is one of our favorite places to get around using mass transit.
Public Transportation: The D.C. Metro
The metros in Washington D.C. are a clean, safe, and an inexpensive and accessible travel option for families with stops all over the city. You can pick up a map at most metro stations or download an app on your smart phone.
Tip! The Mall, where the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial is located, requires quite a bit of walking between monuments and memorials. Wear comfy shoes, pack snacks, and bring water bottles, especially if you visit during the hot summer months. You can expect beautiful walkways lined with flowers and a lake.
Private Transportation: Washington D.C. Hop On, Hop Off Tours
To reduce walking and to get an amazing and thorough view of all the city has to offer, take one of the Hop On, Hop Off bus tours. Find a stop, hop on the bus, pay when you get on, and take your spot. Even in the hot summer sun, we loved sitting in the open air, which allowed for the best photo opportunities.
Tip! Choose a route that includes more than less stops to give you lots of options for places to visit. Then, once on, take the route in its entirety to get a great idea of which stops you'd like to visit before hopping on and hopping off. Make sure to bring your sun glasses and a hat to shade you from the sun in the summer.
What is also great about taking public transportation or private tours is they take the guesswork out of transportation for you, allowing you ample time for conversation and picture taking.
3 Character Education Lessons Inspired by Martin Luther King, Jr.
Each monument or memorial in Washington D.C. could fuel many educational and character-based discussions, but here are five to focus on when visiting the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial.
1. Achieving your dreams.
Have each children identify one dream or goal they would like to achieve. Discuss with them the steps they would need to take to accomplish that dream. Tell them the story of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s dream and how it was accomplished and what he had to sacrifice for it to come to fruition. Point out that reaching your goals requires a plan, hard work, determination, overcoming obstacles, and sacrifice. Ask your kids what obstacles they might encounter on their way to achieving their dreams and how they can overcome those obstacles. Finally, discuss with them how their dream, when reached, will change their lives or the lives of others.
2. Equality and Freedom.
Ask your children for examples on when things aren't equal. Ask them to share when it's OK for things to not be equal. Do the same with freedom. Share how human beings should have the same rights and be held to the same laws. Depending on your kids' ages, share U.S. history about African Americans and slavery. Then, share the important role Martin Luther King, Jr. played in establishing civil rights in the U.S.
Ask your children questions that require them to share an opinion (e.g., What is your favorite type of food?). Have them compare their answers with each other or with you. Point out that often times, people have varying view points, make different choices, or come from diverse backgrounds. Ask your kids to come up with examples that highlight ways in which people think and feel differently. Explain the importance of respecting others' view points and different choices. Then, differentiate between when it is OK to have different opinions and when it isn't (e.g., It is OK for people to not like the same type of food. It is not OK for people to discriminate against people based on where they are from, their skin color, etc.). This could be a great conversation to bring in topics like bullying, team work, etc. Conclude the conversation by sharing Martin Luther King, Jr.'s vision and how his work and fight for civil rights helped people in the US gain respect for those different than them.
How can family travel be both educational and fun? What are tips for building in character education while on a family vacation?