Boeing Learning Center - Lab FAQ

Constitution-in-Action Lab Frequently Asked Questions

  1. I have 55 students and the lab only holds 36, what do I do?
    Although the lab only holds 36 students at a time, teachers often split their numbers into 2 separate groups. One half participates in the morning lab while the other views the exhibits, then at lunch time the 2 groups shift, finishing together at 2:30. See a suggested lab schedule.

  2. I have more than 200 students and cannot come multiple days. What suggestions do you have for us to have a successful visit?
    Self-guided visits to the exhibit spaces of the National Archives Experience are available with reservations for school groups.

    If your school has video conferencing capability, interactive workshops by videoconference can be scheduled.

    Some teachers have used an essay contest related to using primary source documents as a way to select lab participants. They rewarded the outstanding essay writers with a field trip to the Constitution-in-Action lab.

  3. I am planning to bring 2 groups for the lab on the same day. What do I do with the second group while the other one is in the lab for 2 hours?
    There are a number of activities available at the National Archives that will easily fill the time the other group is in the lab. Self guided tours of the exhibits can cover the Rotunda, the Public Vaults, and the O’Brien Gallery. There is an introductory film in the McGowan Theater, Democracy Starts Here, that is shown every 20 minutes from 10:30-4:00. Please explore the other National Archives Experience offerings.
    See a suggested lab schedule.

    Some teachers find that sharing a field trip with another discipline works well. The National Archives is across the street from the National Gallery of Art and the Smithsonian Natural History Museum. Many other museums are close by.

  4. Can I begin the lab experience earlier than 10:00 a.m.?
    No. Because of security procedures at the National Archives, it is not possible to enter before the 9:50 arrival time. The lab times were set to allow for 2 labs per day and finish in time for a 2:30 departure for end-of-school transportation.

  5. Is there a place to eat lunch at the National Archives that holds 36 students plus chaperones?
    The small, on-site Charters Café holds 45 persons. Sharing the space with the general public makes it not ideal for large groups. Weather permitting, many groups enjoy sack lunches across the street in the National Gallery’s outdoor sculpture garden where there is seating by the fountain (during the winter it is an ice skating rink). Nearby venues that handle large groups are the cafeteria at the Natural History Museum and the food court at the Post Office Pavilion. Around 7th-9th streets are many local restaurants and street vendors.

  6. If we go off site for lunch, can we get back in through the Special Events Entrance?
    Yes. But, make sure to bring a copy of the confirmation letter for each group that will be reentering separately for entry through the Special Events and Reserved Visits entrance.

  7. What can I do to prepare my students?
    Pre and post-visit activities that provide students with the opportunity to practice document analysis skills and become familiar with the "Big Ideas" of the U.S. Constitution are available on the Constitution in Action! page on

  8. Can the students see the actual Constitution?
    When the group arrives on time, we may be able to walk through the Rotunda after the lab. Please note: Visits to the Rotunda and other exhibition areas are not a part of the lab experience. You must allow more time if you want students to visit these spaces.

  9. How much time will we need to go through the Public Vaults exhibit?
    An explanation of the Public Vaults exhibit can be found at Learn More About the Public Vaults. Thirty minutes will allow a very brief overview or a walk through the “Record of America” hallway, an hour will give the students a chance to browse the highlights and engage in the interactives. Most visitors, however, feel that multiple visits are required to see everything in depth.

  10. Is there always an exhibit in the O’Brien Gallery?
    These exhibits change every 6 months. There are times when the Gallery is closed for construction of the next exhibit. Go to the Lawrence F. O’Brien Gallery for the most current information. Past exhibits are available online at the Online Exhibit Gallery.

  11. Do the documents on display ever change?
    The Charters of Freedomthe Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and the Bill of Rights—are on permanent display. The other original records in the Rotunda’s “A New World is at Hand” rotate as do those original records in the “Record of America” in the Public Vaults. There are almost 50 records that rotate every 90, 180, 365 days, or 3 years depending on the preservation requirements for those particular records. The rest of the Public Vaults interactive records are mostly permanent. Periodically there are special exhibits of records in the niches of the Rotunda on various topics of interest.

  12. What promotes ease of entry through security?
    We encourage you to leave backpacks, large bags, and metal jewelry behind in order to expedite the security check. Food and gum are not allowed. Flash photography is not permitted in the exhibits.