From boats that brought over the first colonists to island forts where Confederate prisoners were held, Delaware is home to an impressive amount of American history. When you’re done with your trip back in time, check out the performing arts, museums and outdoor escapades that await your student groups in Delaware.
Unraveling the Mystery
Captain John Smith traded with Nanticoke Indians in 1608, and the tribe still remains active to this day. The Nanticoke Indian Museum in Millsboro documents their history through stone artifacts, clothing and taxidermy in addition to boasting an extensive collection of arrowheads, pottery, axes and more. See herbs that the Nanticoke used in their daily life, learn about the tribe’s impact on Delaware and touch a variety of animal skins as you try to identify which creature they belong to.
Visit a gunpowder works built in 1802 at the Hagley Museum and Library in Wilmington. See restored mills and a workers’ community, then move on to the home of the du Ponts to learn how the family who founded the works dealt with the Civil War. Take a tour of the site’s barn, gardens and orchards then head back to works to learn how water wheels and turbines can power an entire structure.
Immerse yourself in the Civil War at Fort Delaware State Park, a Union fortress that once housed Confederate prisoners of war. After taking a ferry to Pea Patch Island, you and your students can engage with costumed interpreters who will transport your group back to the summer of 1864. The island fortress will come to life before your eyes as blacksmiths hammer out cannon parts and Columbiad naval gusn fire live gunpowder charges. Enjoy a picnic lunch on the island’s grass hills and keep your eye out for the herons, egrets, ibis and other birds that call the fortress home.
In the mid-1600s, a pioneering colonial vessel called the Kalmar Nyckel made four transatlantic journeys and fought in several wars. Today, a full-scale model of the ship serves as a floating classroom right off the coast of Wilmington. Discover how to set sails, steer a ship, heave cannons and navigate using 17th-century tools, all while learning about America’s maritime and colonial history. Take a tour of the vessel and marvel over the contrast between the ornate decor of the captain’s cabin and the humble living quarters of the crew.
Get Your Feet Wet
Scan the skies for owls, hummingbirds, bald eagles and great blue herons as you and your group embark on a bird-watching tour at Trap Pond State Park in Laurel. Navigate the freshwater wetland on foot, or rent a canoe and head out into the swamp. Visit on a weekend and take your students on a narrated pontoon boat tour that covers themes like “Wildlife from the Water,” “Boating through History” and more. The park also offers volleyball courts, disc golf and other activities.
Let your students experience the natural beauty of Delaware through a variety of educational cruises on the Cape Water Taxi, based in Lewes. Favorite tours include hearing tales of the pirates who roamed the bay in “History Happens Here”, watching birds get tagged and released on “Osprey Banding Cruise” and learning about about plankton, bottom-dwelling invertebrates and a variety of fish on “Delaware Bay Discovery Expedition”. Relaxing live music cruises are also available.
Learn about the US Life-Saving Service, ancestor to the Coast Guard, at the Indian River Life-Saving Station in Rehoboth Beach. How does grass stabilize sand dunes? What is a diamondback terrapin? Are there shipwrecks along the Delaware Coast? Is there treasure buried in the waters? Indian River offers a variety of interactive, educational programs that let your students answer these questions through their own exploration.
The World’s a Stage
Catch a show or watch your own students perform at Wilmington’s Delaware Theatre Company. From concerts and dance recitals to talent shows and plays, DTC hosts all kinds of student events in its beautiful 300-seater theater. Not interested in performing? Watch DTC’s talented cast put on a variety of favorites including Because of Winn Dixie, Rest in Pieces or Love Letters. After the show, grab a bite to eat at local favorite Harry’s Seafood Grill.
Spend an afternoon catching up on your theater etiquette at the Grand Opera House, a mainstay of the Delaware art scene since it opened in 1871. Learning about the history of this Wilmington landmark and hearing stories of Buffalo Bill Cody, John Phhilip Sousa and other famous performers who graced its stage are sure to be a hit with students of all ages.
On Display in Wilmington
Life-sized dinosaur skeletons. 118,000 bird specimens. African watering holes complete with warthogs, lions, impalas and other mammals. A simulated Great Barrier Reef – all of these exhibits and more can be found at the Delaware Museum of Natural History. Learn about the life of Charles Darwin and his groundbreaking theories, or discover how animals adapt and survive in the face of difficult environmental pressures. Walk beneath a replica of a giant squid, and swing by the butterfly garden on your way out.
Hitch a ride on a Wilmington and Western Railroad steam-powered train that’s been lovingly nicknamed the “museum on wheels.” Travel through 10 scenic miles of Delaware landmarks as you and your students zigzag back and forth across Red Clay Creek, passing by famous attractions such as Barley Mill Stables and Mount Cuba Picnic Grove. Learn about the railroad’s origin in 1867, and discover how it shaped the surrounding area and put Delaware’s Red Clay Valley on the map.
Delaware Sports Museum and Hall of Fame honors the state’s greatest athletic figures throughout the decades. Start with the early athletic competitions of the state’s Lenape Indians and work your way up to the men and women who are still excelling at their respective sports to this day. Meet the state’s premier athletes and coaches through their artifacts, memorabilia, photos and stories. Learn about pregame rituals, broken records and how sports have shaped Delaware.
The adventures that Delaware has to offer your student groups are almost endless. From kayak trips and railroad tours to well-loved plays and dinosaurs, the first state in the nation delivers entertainment and education no matter where you look. So what are you waiting for? Come make memories that will last a lifetime with your student groups in Delaware.