I’ll admit it. When it comes to vacations, my family leans heavily toward fun. Sure, if it’s educational, that’s a big plus, but it is never really the priority. So when we had the opportunity to tie a day trip to one of our favorite cities – Washington DC – to our daughter’s 3rd grade social studies curriculum, we pounced.
Libby is currently learning about Abraham Lincoln, and it seems she has fallen hard for our 16th president. So when I learned that Ford’s Theater opened their Center for Education and Leadership on February 12 this year, it was kismet. We decided to head to DC for President’s Day to check it out and to give Libby a “Lincoln tour” of our nation’s capital. Although there are a lot of attractions we absolutely love in the city, with only one day to play with, we decided to keep the day’s events Lincoln-centric. That still left us with plenty to do!
THE TOWER OF BOOKS
Riddle me this: which American has had the most books written about him/her?
Of course, the answer is Abraham Lincoln. In fact, more books have been penned about Honest Abe than about any other historical person besides Jesus Christ.
“How many books have been written about him?” Libby asked as I shared this tidbit while entering the new Center for Education and Leadership.
She found the answer herself right in the entrance of the Center. A tower of 7,000 books, three and a half stories tall, illustrated Lincoln’s towering importance in history more than any answer I could give. This represents less than half of the 15,000 books written about Lincoln since his assassination.
“Wow, that’s a lot of books,” Libby and her friend Katie murmured to each other as they examined the books – actually, aluminum replicas – that reached high through a spiral staircase.
“HE ACTUALLY DIED HERE”
The Center for Education and Leadership is housed across the street from Ford’s Theater and right next to the Petersen boarding house, where President Lincoln was carried after being shot. Before we headed to the theatre, we toured the house, where history seemed to become real for the girls.
“He actually died here,” one whispered.
“His head was on that pillow,” the other responded, and they stared wide-eyed.
Then we headed upstairs to the Aftermath Gallery, where we were transported back in time to find ourselves in the days immediately following the assassination. We hunted for John Wilkes Booth and followed the route of the funeral train as it headed from Washington to Springfield IL.
Then we headed across the street to Ford’s Theater. Ford’s is still a working theater, and we were treated to a two-man play about the assassination during our visit. After seeing the theater itself, we headed downstairs to the museum where the girls admired artifacts including Lincoln’s clothing, Booth’s gun and a program from Our American Cousin, the play that Lincoln was watching when Booth shot him.
After exploring Ford’s Theater, we headed out. The Lincoln Memorial is about a mile and a half walk from the theater, and the walk will take you past such DC staples as the Washington Memorial and the White House.
Finally we arrived at the Memorial. The girls were impressed with the large marble statue and posed pretending to lift a large penny. They also collected worksheets so that next time they could earn the Junior Ranger program patch for the Memorial.
When we arrived home, Libby prepared a powerpoint presentation for her class, sharing what she learned and pictures from the day. No surprise it earned an A – just like our day in Washington!
Disclaimer: My family received complimentary admission to Ford’s Theater, which usually runs from $3-10 a person. Tickets for the Petersen House are free and available at the theater.