Search in K-5 6-8 9-12 Other Walking Tours Lesson Plans Activities for Children Historical Summaries

Lifelong Learners: Science & Technology at ANC

Part of Arlington National Cemetery's mission is to preserve and maintain the cemetery and its historic buildings, monuments, and headstones for current and future visitors. Learn more about how ANC uses science and technology to maintain the cemetery.

Walking Tour: Understanding Arlington

Approximately 400,000 veterans and their eligible dependents are buried at Arlington National Cemetery. The history of our nation is reflected on the grounds of the cemetery. Take this self-guided walking tour to explore highlights of ANC.
  • Length: 3 miles
  • Starting point: Welcome Center
  • Exertion Level: Moderate

Walking Tour: Military Technology

This walking tour honors those individuals buried at Arlington who dedicated their careers to technology and innovation. Some, like Hyman Rickover and Grace Hopper, did so while serving in the military. Others, like George Westinghouse, contributed to technological advancement outside of their military service.
  • Length: 3 miles
  • Starting point: Section 5 (0.4 miles from Welcome Center)
  • Exertion Level: Moderate

Lesson Plans: High School

The military invests in the research and development of many different kinds of technology. These technologies can provide fascinating case studies for exploring the practical applications of science concepts taught in your classroom.
The three lesson plans in this module focus on technologies that are currently used at Arlington National Cemetery and partner agencies (LIDAR, DNA analysis), or that were developed by prominent individuals buried at ANC (nuclear submarines).
  • One class period (30 minutes)

Lesson Plans: Elementary and Middle School

Students learn about the history of military technologies by sorting technology cards into categories. Lesson plans are geared toward sorting the technology cards according to the war in which the technology was used.
This lesson can be taught as part of a unit studying the American Revolution, the Civil War, World War I, or World War II. It can also be revisited to refresh students’ understanding of which technologies were used during a particular war.
  • One class period (30 minutes)

Lifelong Learners: Explorers Buried at ANC

Learn about the history of explorations and missions carried out by individuals buried at Arlington National Cemetery — from polar explorers to astronauts.

Walking Tour: Explorers

Throughout its history, the U.S. military has explored — first over the earth via land and sea, then into the skies, and finally into space. This legacy of exploration can be seen here at Arlington National Cemetery, the final resting place of many people who expanded our understanding of the earth, air, and space.
  • Length: 3.5 miles
  • Starting point: Section 2 (0.4 miles from Welcome Center)
  • Exertion Level: High

Lesson Plan: Analyzing Opinion Writing

In this social studies lesson plan (for grades 9-12), students explore how major news events can be interpreted in various ways by analyzing opinion pieces related to the Challenger and Columbia space shuttle disasters.
Students will discuss the difference between objective and subjective writing and the place for each within journalism. They are then assigned to write their own opinion piece on a news topic of their choice.
  • One class period (90 minutes), plus homework

Lesson Plan: Facts and Opinions in the News

In this social studies lesson plan (for grades 6-8), students analyze articles related to the Challenger and Columbia space shuttle disasters to learn the difference between facts and opinions, and how they can both be used in journalism.
After discussing the articles, students will write their own fact and opinion statements on a chosen topic.
  • One class period (60 minutes)

Lesson Plan: The Powell Expeditions

Using the Powell Expeditions of 1869 and 1871, students (grades 4-6) will be introduced to social studies skills and themes, including analyzing primary sources.
John Wesley Powell was an American explorer and geologist. In 1869 and 1871, he led pathbreaking expeditions that mapped and described the geology, plants, and animals of the Colorado River and Grand Canyon. In this lesson, students work in small groups and use primary sources from the Powell Expeditions to practice primary source analysis, historical comprehension, and teamwork.
  • One class period (45-60 minutes)

Walking Tour: Navy

From its founding in the 18th century to today, the U.S. Navy has played a leading role in American military operations as well as scientific innovation and exploration. On this tour, you’ll be introduced to pioneers from across Navy history. These men and women pushed geographic and technological boundaries, and they showed ingenuity and courage in the face of war.
  • Length: 4 miles
  • Starting point: Section 54 (0.3 miles from Welcome Center)
  • Exertion Level: Moderate

Walking Tour: Marine Corps

As America’s expeditionary force in readiness since 1775, the Marines are forward deployed to fight the nation’s land, sea, and air battles. On this tour, you’ll learn about individuals who exemplified the Marines’ core values of honor, courage and commitment. They include men and women who changed the historical trajectory of the Corps, alongside those who served in some of the Marines’ most famous actions.
  • Length: 4 miles
  • Starting point: Section 33 (0.5 miles from Welcome Center)
  • Exertion Level: High

Walking Tour: Coast Guard

The history of the Coast Guard is that of survival: the survival of the service and the survival of the individuals it was created to save. On this tour, you’ll be introduced to commandants who led the Coast Guard through tremendous change, visionaries who changed how the Coast Guard performed its duties, and everyday people who risked their lives to save the lives of others.
  • Length: 4 miles
  • Starting point: Section 3 (0.94 miles from Welcome Center)
  • Exertion Level: Moderate

Walking Tour: Air Force

Since 1947, the Air Force has developed and used advances in aerial warfare to defend the United States from threats in air, space, and cyberspace. This focus on progress and innovation has attracted many trailblazers. On this walking tour, you’ll meet individuals who made daring decisions in battle, pressed the limits of their field, and expanded the capabilities of the Air Force.
  • Length: 3 miles
  • Starting point: Section 2 (0.3 miles from Welcome Center)
  • Exertion Level: Moderate

Walking Tour: Army

The Army is the oldest and largest service branch in the U.S. military, tracing its roots to the Continental Army established in 1775. Throughout its history, the U.S. Army has continually risen to meet the ever-changing needs of an expanding and diverse nation. This tour features individuals from throughout the Army’s history who exemplify this diversity and change, from enlisted soldiers to five-star officers.
  • Length: 5 miles
  • Starting point: Section 27 (0.5 miles from Welcome Center)
  • Exertion Level: High

Walking Tours: World War II

These six walking tours share some of the diverse experiences and individual stories of those who fought abroad or worked on the home front during World War II. The main walking tour includes stops across the entire cemetery, while the four cluster tours only include stops in one of the four main sections of the cemetery. The school tour is an abridged version of the main tour.

Recommended Reading: World War II Perspectives

World War II was a people’s war. Mobilization for the war affected the lives of every American.
The collection of firsthand accounts compiled here ― all from individuals buried at Arlington National Cemetery ― include stories of love and loss, discrimination and perseverance, and horror and joy. Drawn from oral histories, interviews and personal writings, they provide small slices of the larger story of the United States’ experience in World War II.

 

Lesson Plan: Firsthand History

Students will analyze the purpose of primary sources before being introduced to Eddie Willner, a survivor of the Holocaust who is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
They will then listen to a portion of an oral history interview he gave to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM). While listening, students will answer questions about the interview and the importance of primary sources. Students do not need to already be familiar with World War II or the Holocaust in order to participate in this lesson.
  • One or two class periods, 90 minutes total

Lesson Plan: Telling the Story of World War II

In this lesson, high school students will use primary and secondary sources that illuminate the experiences of individuals buried at Arlington National Cemetery. These perspectives include African American women of the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion, fighter pilots who served the Pacific Theater, Japanese Americans, military wives, and survivors of the Holocaust.
Students select a perspective, read an article related to that topic, and then watch an oral history interview with an individual who lived through World War II. After completing their own study, students participate in a discussion on the uses of primary and secondary sources. They will discuss how primary and secondary sources on their chosen topic contributed to their understanding of World War II as a whole.
  • Two class periods; 10 minute introduction; at-home examination of sources; 30-40 minute in-class discussion and activity

Lesson Plan: Women on the Homefront

During World War II, women were not allowed to serve in combat roles in the American armed forces. However, the work done by women who served on the American homefront was a vital support to the success of the Allied forces abroad.
In this lesson, students will examine primary sources related to the experiences of two women, both buried at Arlington National Cemetery, who served on the homefront in different ways. While the focus of this lesson is on analyzing primary sources and creative writing, through the lives of the two women highlighted students will also learn about the broader meanings of service and sacrifice during World War II, both in the military and on the homefront.
  • One or two class periods, 90 minutes total

Lesson Plan: Designing a Cemetery

In this lesson, high school students will discuss the impacts of human activity on watersheds and biodiversity, through the lens of landscape management and design at Arlington National Cemetery.
Students will have the opportunity to plan a new section of the cemetery using a menu of options related to plantings, stormwater management, parking lots and walkways, fertilizer and pesticide. As they make their choices, students will be asked to consider the needs of the environment, the interests of cemetery visitors, and a budget, reflecting real-world challenges faced by Arlington National Cemetery administration.

 

  • Two class periods, 90-120 minutes total, with some homework

Lesson Plan: The Plant Plan—Putting the Right Plant in the Right Place

Students will use provided facts and data about different native plants and conditions at Arlington National Cemetery to make and defend planting decisions.
These lessons, designed for elementary and middle-school students, can either be used as a unit culminating activity or, with modifications, as an introductory activity to a unit on plants and the environment. Resources include a PowerPoint, plant cards, cemetery maps, a worksheet, and a grading rubric.
  • One class period, 45-60 minutes total

Memorial Arboretum: Seasonal Guides

Whether visiting in the spring, summer, fall or winter, there is always something to see in Arlington National Cemetery's Memorial Arboretum. Download our seasonal guides for recommendations on horticulture highlights for each season.
 

Walking Tour: Memorial Arboretum

Arlington National Cemetery's 639 acres of rolling green hills, with nearly 9,000 trees, serve as a living tribute to the veterans and their family members laid to rest here. Our walking tours explore highlights of Memorial Arboretum.
In 2014, to commemorate its 150th anniversary, Arlington National Cemetery established this historic landscape as Memorial Arboretum. In 2018, Memorial Arboretum was accredited as a Level III Arboretum--one of only 24 institutions worldwide to maintain this prestigious accreditation. While strolling through these hallowed grounds, consider how the landscape contributes to Arlington's mission to honor and remember the service and sacrifice of individuals buried here. 
  • Distance: 2.5 miles for regular walking tour; 2 miles for school group walking tour
  • Exertion Level: Moderate
  • Starting point: Section 31 (.2 miles from Welcome Center) 
 

Recommended Reading: The Spanish-American War

Check out these resources if you are interested in learning more about the Spanish-American War.

Recommended Reading: African American History at ANC

A list of recommended secondary sources on the history of African Americans and Arlington National Cemetery, from the Civil War through the civil rights movement.

Walking Tour: Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Visit the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the gravesites of individuals related to the Tomb's history.
On November 11, 1921, an unknown American soldier who died in World War I was laid to rest at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. On this walking tour, you will visit the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the gravesites of several individuals who took part in the Unknown’s 1921 burial ceremony. You will also explore other sites in the cemetery that invite reflection on the sacrifices of those who gave not only their lives, but also their names and identities in the service of the United States.
  • Length: 2 miles
  • Starting point: Section 5 (.3 miles from Welcome Center)

Walking Tour: The Spanish-American War

Arlington National Cemetery contains more monuments and burial sites related to the Spanish-American War than any other location in the continental United States.
Learn about the historical significance of the Spanish-American War by visiting the gravesites of individuals who played prominent roles in it, as well as the USS Maine Memorial, the Spanish-American War Memorial and other monuments.
  • Length: 1.2 miles
  • Starting point: Section 24 (1 mile from Welcome Center)

Walking Tour: Segregation and Civil Rights

Explore Arlington’s past as a plantation, learn about the Freedman's Village built on this property during the Civil War, and meet some trailblazers of the civil rights movement.
The history of African Americans at Arlington National Cemetery parallels and reflects the history of African Americans in the United States. This walking tour includes sites related to slavery, Reconstruction, segregation, the civil rights movement, and the continuing contributions of African Americans to the U.S. military and society.
  • Length: 5 miles
  • Starting point: Section 36 (0.2 miles from Welcome Center)
  • Because this walking tour is quite long, we recommend completing it in smaller sections.

Walking Tour: African American Firsts

This walking tour celebrates African American men and women buried at Arlington National Cemetery who were first in their fields.
Meet the first African American four-star general, the first African American Supreme Court Justice, the first boxer to appear on a U.S. postage stamp and many other pioneers. 
  • Length: 5 miles
  • Starting point: Section 33 (0.5 miles from Welcome Center)
  • Because this walking tour is quite long, we recommend completing it in smaller sections.

Walking Tour: African American Military Heroes

Learn about the lives of Tuskegee Airmen, members of the 369th Infantry Infantry Regiment (the “Harlem Hellfighters”), Medal of Honor recipients and more. 
Throughout U.S. history, African Americans have fought bravely for the United States and distinguished themselves in combat. This walking tour includes gravesites and memorials that honor the service of these heroic individuals. 
  • Length: 5 miles
  • Starting point: Section 40 (0.4 miles from Welcome Center)
  • Because this walking tour is quite long, we recommend completing it in smaller sections.

Lesson Plan: Who's Buried at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier?

Primary sources enable students to consider who might be buried at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and why he is buried there.
Optional materials discussing Memorial Day and Veterans Day, along with their connections to the Tomb, are also included. Students will use the information they learn to reflect upon what the Tomb and/or holiday means to American society and to them. Resources include PowerPoint presentations and student reflection worksheets. 
  • One class period, 45-60 minutes total

Lesson Plan: The Unknown Soldier and National Community

Students explore efforts to define and unite the American national community by reading and discussing primary source documents related to the dedication of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in 1921.
Students will be asked to cite evidence from the documents as well as to reflect on their own experiences. Resources include a PowerPoint slide deck, primary source excerpts and discussion questions.
  • Two class periods, 50-70 minutes total

Lesson Plan: What Is the United States of America?

Students use maps to explore the concept of the United States of America as a nation and to learn about its geographic boundaries over time.
Resources for teachers include handouts and a PowerPoint-guided lesson on the United States' geographic expansion from the colonial period through today.
  • One class period, 35-45 minutes total

Lesson Plan: Spanish-American War Timeline

This timeline activity about the Spanish-American War can be used as an introduction, a review or at any time during a lesson/unit.
Timeline cards can be printed and ordered chronologically to give students an overview of events in the war.
  • One class period, 15-30 minutes total

Lesson Plan: Nurses in the Spanish-American War

Students use primary source documents and other resources to learn about the role of female nurses during the Spanish-American War.
The lesson also explores the expansion of career opportunities for women in military medicine before and after the war, and it addresses the different experiences of white women and women of color. Resources include quotes, images and cards with profiles of individual nurses. Students complete a gallery walk or work in groups on a jigsaw of teacher-curated resources.
  • Elementary: One class period, 45-60 minutes total
  • Middle: 1-2 class periods, 60-75 minutes total
  • High: 1-2 class periods, 60-75 minutes total

Lifelong Learners: Personal Accounts of the Spanish-American War

Explore photographs and personal accounts that tell firsthand stories about the Spanish-American War. Learners of all ages can use these primary sources in order to understand how Americans experienced the war in different ways.

Lifelong Learners: Nurses in the Spanish-American War

Through historical photographs and written accounts, learn about the role of female nurses during the Spanish-American War. Materials also examine how nursing expanded opportunities for women in the military.

Lifelong Learners: Historical Opinions on the Spanish-American War

This curated collection of primary sources illuminates a variety of historical opinions on the Spanish-American War and the United States' expanding global power.
As learners read, they will consider how Americans reacted to the war and the United States' changing role in the world at the turn of the 20th century. Materials also prompt readers to consider how such debates continue today. 

Lesson Plan: A Splendid Little War? – High School

Students use primary source documents and other resources to learn about arguments for and against the Spanish-American War in 1898.
Materials also explore the meanings and consequences of U.S. global expansion at the turn of the 20th century. Resources include personal accounts, historical photographs, political cartoons, historical commentaries and a student worksheet.
  • 1-2 class periods, 75-90 minutes total

Lesson Plan: A Splendid Little War? – Middle School

Students use primary sources and a worksheet to analyze historical perspectives on the Spanish-American War and the United States’ expanding global power.
Materials include resources for a teacher-led discussion, as well as a worksheet for students to complete individually or as a group.
  • One class period, 40-50 minutes total

Lesson Plan: Reconstruction Timeline

This timeline activity about the history of Reconstruction (1865-1877) can be used as an introduction, a review or at any time throughout a Reconstruction unit.
Timeline cards can be printed and ordered to give students an overview of important events during the Reconstruction era. For students who will be visiting Arlington National Cemetery, an optional set of Freedman’s Village timeline cards can also be printed and used.
  • One class period, 15-30 minutes

Lesson Plan: The Freedpeople of Section 27

Although Arlington National Cemetery is a military cemetery, it contains a section where thousands of African American civilians were buried between 1864 and 1867.
Through a class lecture and exploration of a Section 27 burial record, students explore what life may have been like for free African Americans during the years surrounding the Civil War. Students will write a short obituary for one of the African American civilians on the burial record.
  • Elementary School: 1 class period, 45-60 minutes total
  • Middle School: 1-2 class periods, 70-90 minutes total
  • High School: 1-2 class periods, 70-90 minutes total

Lesson Plan: Freedman’s Village at Arlington

Freedman’s Village was a federally administered temporary community of formerly enslaved African Americans established on the former Arlington estate in 1863.
In 1887, the government decided to close Freedman’s Village and evict the residents. After analyzing documents and summarizing the arguments on both sides of the issue—should Freedman’s Village be closed or remain open?—students choose their own stance and respond to a reflection question. For an extension opportunity, students can write a letter to the secretary of war explaining what they think should be done.
  • Elementary School: 1-3 class periods, 45-120 minutes total
  • Middle School: 1-2 class periods, 60-90 minutes total
  • High School: 1-2 class periods, 60-90 minutes total

Lifelong Learners: The Freedpeople of Section 27

In Section 27 of Arlington National Cemetery, thousands of headstones inscribed with “citizen” or “civilian” mark the resting places of free or formerly enslaved African Americans who died in and around Washington, D.C. from 1863 to 1867.
Read about who these people were and how they came to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery, and then explore a burial record for this section.

Lifelong Learners: Freedman’s Village at Arlington

Freedman’s Village was a community of formerly enslaved African Americans established on the former Arlington estate in 1863.
Through historical photos and personal accounts, learn about life in the village and the circumstances surrounding its eventual closure.

 

Lesson Plan: African American Celebrated Unit – United States Colored Troops, Civil War

The United States Colored Troops (official U.S. Army name), or U.S.C.T., were Civil War regiments composed of African Americans.
Although African Americans had fought in the military since the Revolutionary War, the formation of the U.S.C.T. was the first time that the U.S. Army had actively recruited them. Their service opened the door for future generations of African Americans in the military. Students learn about the U.S.C.T. and explore their significance in historical and cultural context. Resources include a PowerPoint slide deck and handout.
  • One class period, 15-20 minutes total

Lesson Plan: African American Celebrated Unit – Tuskegee Airmen, World War II

The Tuskegee Airmen have long been honored for their skills, valor and distinguished service despite facing segregation and discrimination.
From 1941 to 1946, nearly 1,000 African American military pilots completed their training in Tuskegee, Alabama. More than 350 of them served overseas during World War II; 84 lost their lives. Students learn about the Tuskegee Airmen and explore their significance in historical and cultural context. Resources include a PowerPoint slide deck and handout.
  • One class period, 15-20 minutes total

Lesson Plan: African American Celebrated Unit – “Buffalo Soldiers”

In 1866, Congress established the U.S. Army’s all-Black 9th and 10th Cavalry Regiments and 24th and 25th Infantry Regiments, later known as the “Buffalo Soldiers,” to serve on the western frontier.
Students learn about the Buffalo Soldiers and explore their significance in historical and cultural context. Resources include a PowerPoint slide deck and handout.
  • One class period, 15-20 minutes total

Lesson Plan: African American Celebrated Unit – 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion, World War II

The 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion, popularly known as the “Six Triple Eight,” was an African American unit of the Women’s Army Corps (WAC) during World War II.
The 6888th became the only non-medical African American women’s unit to serve overseas during the war.

Resources include a PowerPoint slide deck and handout. Students learn about the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion and make connections to their prior knowledge in order to explore the significance of this military unit in historical and cultural context.

  • One class period, 15-20 minutes total

 

Lesson Plan: African American Celebrated Unit – 369th Infantry Regiment

The 369th Infantry Regiment, nicknamed the “Harlem Rattlers” and “Harlem Hellfighters,” had one of the most distinguished records of any unit in the history of the United States Army.
The 369th saw extensive combat in both World War I and World War II. Most of the men in the regiment were African American, although it also included Puerto Ricans. Students learn about the 369th Infantry Regiment and explore its significance in historical and cultural context. Resources include a PowerPoint slide deck and handout.
  • One class period, 15-20 minutes total