Student Legislative Seminars


Student legislative seminars to Washington, DC represent one of the Institute’s primary educational programs. Each of our groups is small (10-20 students), and each trip is designed to meet the specific needs of students in that group. In orientation meetings prior to the trip and throughout our time in DC, we help the students explore the importance of belief systems and how they affect us. Students learn and practice listening and communication skills that that will last a lifetime and that can be applied to virtually any situation. We also emphasize and practice critical thinking while maintaining civility and respect throughout the process. It’s all highly participatory and high energy! It is definitely the trip of a lifetime!

What does each seminar consist of?

Of course we spend time seeing the sights in Washington:  Arlington Cemetery, monuments and museums, and the National Cathedral are all a part of these trips.  But our trips are about much more than seeing the sights.

Culture is a part of the Student Trip experience as well. Students see a concert at the Kennedy Center, and often a play at Ford’s Theatre (each depending on availability). Meals range from group picnics to popular restaurants.

But our trips are about much more than seeing the sights.

One of our stops is the Holocaust Museum.  We can think of few better places in Washington, DC to learn the importance of respect for our fellow human beings than here.

We also educate students about how to be involved in the governing process. We arrange briefings on Capitol Hill for students on issues they have selected. This both empowers students to set the agenda for their time on Capitol Hill, and teaches them about some of the resources that are available to them.

Students decide their positions on the issues together through active dialogue with one another. Then they meet with members of Congress from both sides of the political aisle, sharing their concerns and opinions. Student groups also have their picture with the sponsoring member of Congress, providing them with a long-lasting reminder of their time in Washington, DC.

Additional Details

Costs for these trips are held to a minimum through the use of public transportation and wise accommodation choices. The sponsoring schools provide the needed chaperones while the Institute makes all arrangements and provides programming. Students do not pay for these trips, although a school might ask them to participate in fundraising events to help raise needed funds. The cost is covered either by the school, grants, or community groups. For more information about what might be possible for your group, please contact us.


From a Teacher Chaperone:

Through the legislative seminars, students learn to see issues in a more dynamic way. They begin to appreciate the value of different viewpoints, and to understand the importance of civility–in government and in their own lives.— Laurie H., Teacher at Texas City High School, Texas City, Texas

From a student on a trip:

“The trip to Washington DC was an experience of a lifetime exposing me to greater opportunities outside of my typical living environment. This experience not only inspired me to dream more and to challenge myself, but it was also very insightful in the knowledge that I gained.” — Ebony J., Furr High School

From another chaperone:

“In October of 2011, our students began preparing for their Washington D.C. trip.  Their preparation included reading and discussing the book by Cassandra Dahnke and Tomas Spath, Reclaiming Civility in the Public Square: 10 Rules That Work.

The students also spent weeks researching the progress Congress had made on three current and relevant topics.  Their anticipation and excitement grew as we finalized the details of our trip.  These amazing young people spent 5 days in Washington DC under the careful guidance and supervision of Cassandra Dahnke, Thomas Spath, and Robert Dahnke.  Our friends at the Institute provided a well orchestrated agenda.  The students could not have imagined shaking hands with members of Congress, visiting the offices of their state representatives, and visiting monuments and museums they had seen only in history books.

The students returned to Houston, Texas and Furr High School with a greater understanding and appreciation of the hard work our representatives do in Washington D.C.  The students were also filled with a sense of greater civic responsibility.  They were eager to pass along their new wisdom to their peers.  The following school year, these students addressed the Houston City Council regarding Environmental Justice.” — Deborah K., Title I Coordinator from Furr High School, Houston, Texas

Another student said:

“The trip with the Institute showed me the inner workings of politics (which I had never been interested in!) and how to work with people whose opinions differ from one’s own. It was a great experience, and even though I knew (or thought I knew) most of the other students that went, I got to know them a lot better. The sights and the knowledge were definitely worth the long walks and (very) late nights.” — Linzhe R., Furr High School, Houston, Texas

A chaperone from our last trip says:

“The Washington DC trip with the Institute for Civility in Government was one of the most comprehensive, well-planned trips that I have ever had the pleasure to attend. Mr. Spath dedicated a great deal of time preparing the students through team building and content-based exercises. My students received hands on learning through interacting with the offices of the Senators and Congressmen alike, and they were even fortunate enough to engage in a meaningful discussion with Congressman Gene Green. When they were not developing formal political opinions or conferring in Congressional offices, my students were in museums, at monuments, or otherwise engaged in learning about this incredible governmental system.” — Joseph A., Teacher on the Furr High School Trip