The Washington Middle School Program connects students to the prospects and responsibilities of democratic citizenship. It provides students hands-on opportunities to interact with government and history. During visits to historic sites, museums and memorials, and Capitol Hill, students examine the roles of ordinary citizens in American democracy, observe government in action, and explore the links between history and the issues and events of today.

Our Approach

Comprehensive Curriculum. Unlike many trips to Washington, DC offered by tour operators and travel organizations, Close Up offers a thoroughly scaffolded, well-organized program where each component builds on previous experiences. Our programs are aligned with each state’s social studies standards, Common Core and the C3 (College, Carrier and Civic Life) Framework. To help organize this curriculum for middle school learners, the Washington Middle School Program features a Question of the Week and Questions of the Day for each day. The Question of the Week is: What are the big ideas and events that have shaped American democracy?

The Questions of the Day include:

  • Sunday: How does the government impact our lives?
  • Monday: What are America’s big ideas about the role of the government?
  • Tuesday: What are America’s big ideas about the role of people?
  • Final Day: How can we apply America’s big ideas to what we see in our world today?

Hands-On Learning. At memorials and museums, Close Up instructors prepare students for active exploration by providing history and context and by helping students connect their prior knowledge and experiences to what they will see. Students then investigate the site to find quotes, images, symbols and ideas that connect to the lesson’s central question(s). After the site visit, students share their findings and discuss how what they learned contributes to their understanding of the Question of the Day. Examples of our hands-on lesson plans include:

  • Evolving Rights Study Visit: At the Jefferson and Franklin Roosevelt Memorials, students examine quotations and the historical contexts of the two presidencies as the basis for discussing the Bill of Rights.
  • Different Forms of Service Study Visit: During visits to the World War II and Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorials, students examine different ways that citizens have shaped American history and democracy. Additionally, students debate whether some forms of protest and civil disobedience are harmful or counterproductive.

Issue-Centered Education. Students take part in exciting large-group simulations and small-group discussions about historical tensions and current controversies with their peers from around the country. The diverse student community creates an environment rich in opinions and values, connecting students to the debates and challenges of American democracy. Examples of this include:

  • Capitol Hill Simulation: Students take on the roles of Members of Congress, Committee Chairs and policy experts as they simulate committee work, floor debate and voting in the U.S. House of Representatives. Students discuss middle school-appropriate versions of actual legislation currently being considered by Congress.
  • Characteristics of a Good Law Workshop: Students will evaluate several laws using criteria, such as enforceability and justice, to determine what characteristics are common to good laws and to consider the compromises and trade-offs made by lawmakers.

The 2012 National Task Force study concluded that “full civic literacies cannot be garnered only by studying books; democratic knowledge and capabilities are also honed through hands-on, face- to-face, active engagement in the midst of differing perspectives about how to address common problems that affect the well-being of the nation and the world.”

No other program in Washington, DC can offer the type of student-to-student interaction and hands-on education that Close Up provides. For over 40 years, we have relied on time-tested, academically-rich methods to reach students from all walks of life.

Our Instructional Staff

Close Up’s Program Instructors (PIs) ensure that your students have a safe, rewarding and fun experience! Instructors are knowledgeable and skilled in encouraging each student to participate to their fullest potential while on program and to help them return home with a greater understanding of their role as citizens and how history has shaped that role. Our PIs are not just contracted tour guides – they are college-educated instructors who are carefully selected for our programs and receive over 120 hours of training with our curriculum and methodology prior to working with students. To learn more about our phenomenal instructional staff, please click here.

Safety and Security on Student Program

We take the safety and security of each student very seriously and work to maintain a safe and positive environment for students throughout the week to encourage their personal growth. For more information on the safety and security guidelines for our programs, please click here.

Our Student Programs

Close Up’s Middle School Programs are designed to give students hands-on opportunities to interact with government and history in Washington, DC. It is a fast-paced, fun-filled, and educational experience in one of the world’s most dynamic cities. To learn more about the Close Up student experience in Washington DC please click here.

Our Teacher Program

At Close Up, we believe that hands-on learning is not just for students! Close Up’s one-of-a-kind Teacher Program offers teachers the opportunity to dig deep into all of the resources the DC area has to offer so that they can hone their skills, network with other teachers, find new materials to support their classroom instruction, and come home with new ways to engage their students. To learn about our exciting professional development opportunities for teachers, please click here.


"Close Up inspired me in so many ways. Not only did it help me realize my political stance on a variety of issues, but it help create an urgency for activism in my life. I made so many wonderful friendships while I was there and have such great memories."

   – Tara, Student, OK
Educating for democracy since 1971