Class Trips to Southeastern Virginia to Study Science

Many student trips to Virginia focus on early American history and the study of the Civil War. With sites like Colonial Williamsburg, Jamestown Island, Yorktown Battlefields, Arlington National Cemetery, Monticello, and the historic homes of numerous presidents, it is no surprise many school trips to the Commonwealth focus on history. Yet a school trip to Virginia is also a great choice for the study of science.

In previous articles I have written about science destinations in Northern Virginia and Washington D.C. and an Eco Tour of Virginia. This article will focus specifically on destinations in Southeastern Virginia in Norfolk, Hampton, and Virginia Beach. Destinations on the science tour of Virginia can be combined with a student trip to Washington D.C. or Williamsburg or taken as a stand-alone educational tour of Virginia.

Nauticus, The National Maritime Center
Nauticus is located on the harbor in Norfolk, Virginia. The Museum is a 45-minute bus ride from Williamsburg and is well worth the trip. Nauticus is home to battleship Wisconsin, the last battleship built by the U.S. Navy. Students learn about the way science impacts Naval history and economics and methods and instruments used in navigating the sea. School groups tour the battleship Wisconsin and the nearby museum. Afterwards, groups can have lunch at Waterside, and explore downtown Norfolk.

Mariners’ Museum
The Mariner’s Museum is located in Newport News, Virginia, and encompasses 60,000 square feet of exhibition space. Students can learn about maritime history and view artifacts from the Monitor battleship and exhibitions on topics such as the Chesapeake Bay watermen. Groups touring the museum will see handmade ship models, paintings, and photographs related to the history of work on the sea from world class collections. If the weather is nice, school groups can take a walk around Mariners’ Museum Park and Noland Trail, a naturally wooded setting surrounding Lake Maury.

Virginia Air and Space Center
The Virginia Air and Space Center is not far from NASA Langley Air Force Base in Hampton, Virginia, where America’s space exploration program first began in earnest. The museum exhibits document over 100 years in aviation and provide visitors with an overview of space exploration that includes artifacts from space flights. The Virginia Air and Space center houses over 30 planes. With its high tech interactive exhibits and an Imax theater on site, it is sure to be a popular destination for student groups.

Hampton Roads Harbor Cruise
One way for students to see and learn about life in the Chesapeake Bay region is to climb aboard a boat that gives students a view of the harbor. Harbor cruises leave from either the port of Norfolk or Hampton, Virginia. Each cruise includes slightly different views and points of interest. Students will see the awe inspiring Norfolk Naval base, where aircraft carriers, submarines and other support vessels are docked. Groups will learn about other points of interest in the harbor that date to the time of the first English settlers and the Civil War. The harbor cruise takes approximately two hours and offers a perspective that is stimulating and different from a walking tour.

Lifesaving Museum of Virginia
Student groups can take a trip to Virginia Beach, Virginia to explore the Lifesaving Museum of Virginia. Here they will see the remains of shipwrecks, and learn about lifesaving and techniques and equipment used to rescue people from the sea. Groups may elect to take a guided School of the Surfman tour that includes an overview of skills honed by rescuers and their stories.

The Southeastern corner of Virginia, also known as Tidewater Virginia, is the perfect place for students to engage in active learning about scientific topics. It is rich in maritime history and the innovations of space exploration. The Tidewater area of Virginia is also home to the largest Naval base on the East Coast and several U.S. Coast Guard stations. Depending upon curricular objectives, student tour leaders may also elect to add other destinations to the science tour such as a visit to Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, the Virginia Marine Science Museum, the Virginia Living Museum, or the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center.