Family Field Trip: The Lincoln Memorial

The Lincoln Memorial is a must-see for many visitors to Washington, D.C. The impressive tribute to our 16th president is a symbol of Lincoln's legacy and an inspiring memorial of freedom. Taking your child to visit the Lincoln Memorial can provide an excellent teaching opportunity on Lincoln and the role he played in our nation's history.

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Before You Go

Before visiting the Lincoln Memorial, have your child study the history of Abraham Lincoln. The Great Emancipator led a fascinating life during a crucial period in American history. There are myriad ways in which your child can learn about Lincoln and his era.

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A good place to start may be with research. There are countless books on the life of Lincoln and your child can begin with Lincoln's birth in a log cabin in Kentucky. His early life was filled with hardship and tragedy, including the deaths of his mother and older sister. Ann Rutledge, his first love, also suffered an early fate, most likely dying of typhoid fever. Lincoln had limited access to education and he performed demanding physical labor for many years.

Lincoln's unlikely rise to the presidency coincided with one of the most tumultuous periods in American history. In addition to Lincoln's biography, your child may study the Civil War, which tore apart the country and dominated Lincoln's time of leadership. Encourage your child to read books, conduct Internet research and watch historically-based films and documentaries on the Civil War. Knowledge of this history will help your child understand the significance of Lincoln's legacy.

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Teaching Moments at the Site

When you visit the Lincoln Memorial, have your child study the majestic site, including the many carvings and murals. Of particular note are the inscriptions of Lincoln's second inaugural address and the Gettysburg Address. Each is among the most significant and treasured speeches in American history. They speak to Lincoln's pragmatic approach to leadership and the gravity of the Civil War.

On a lighter note, the statue of Lincoln is often analyzed for hidden meaning. Your child may spot clues of the many rumored messages contained within. For example, Lincoln's hands are thought by many to form a sign language representation of an A and L for his initials. While there is no official recognition of this rumor, there are several facts that support it. Most notably, the sculptor is known to have used sign language with his deaf son and may have been paying tribute to Lincoln's support of legislation for Gallaudet University, which served deaf students.

The Ride Home

After visiting the Lincoln Memorial, you may want to discuss with your child the significant events that have occurred there. The most iconic event at the Lincoln Memorial happened in 1963. Approximately 100 years after Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, Martin Luther King, Jr., delivered his historic 'I Have a Dream' speech from the steps of the memorial. The speech capped the March on Washington, a critical moment in the Civil Rights Movement.

Your child may also use your visit to the Lincoln Memorial as a jumping off point to perform further research into Lincoln and the events of his life. Considered by many to be our greatest president, Lincoln is a worthwhile subject of continued study.

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