National Cryptologic Museum Tour Information
Table of Contents:
Ideal for retiree groups, college classes, or those adults looking for something a little different. Museum staff or volunteer docents will lead groups on guided tours of the museum. The tour covers cryptologic history and the role that making and breaking codes has had in American/world history. You'll hear how messages were sent in the Civil War, how the U.S. entered WWI due to a broken coded German message, touch a real working German Enigma from WWII, see the machine that decrypted the Japanese "Dec. 7, 1941" message, learn about the Native American Code Talkers, see some of the earliest supercomputers and secure telephones, and much more. Special emphasis can be placed on any of these areas upon request.
Groups should schedule in advance (301-688-5849) , but walk-ins are welcome if a docent is available.
Tours last approximately 1.5 hours. (Shorter or longer tours can be accommodated upon request).
School Field Trips
A field trip to the National Cryptologic Museum is a fun and interesting way to introduce students to the secret world of codes and ciphers. Age appropriate, interactive programs are designed to engage the students and to make them aware of cryptology's role in world history and how mathematics plays a role in cryptology. The programs are excellent for math, social studies, and scout field trips.
Hours: The museum is open to the public Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Field trips may be scheduled to begin anytime between 9 and 2 p.m. Most field trips are scheduled for the morning hours so book early to reserve the desired date and time.
A minimum of one chaperone for every ten students is required. Additional chaperones are welcomed and encouraged.
The museum shop is open Monday through Friday 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. If you would like students to have an opportunity to visit the store, please schedule additional time in your trip. Students are only permitted in the gift shop with the teacher's approval and when accompanied by an adult. Because the store is small, only six students and a chaperone are permitted in the store at one time. The store carries a variety of items emblazoned with the National Security Agency emblem. Items range from pencils to clothing and books
No public transportation is available to the museum. Ample parking is available for cars and buses. Click here for map and directions.
School Field Trip Programs
Picture Scavenger Hunt
Recommended for ages 9-11 (grades 4-6). Older elementary school students participate in a Scavenger Hunt. Each student receives a questionnaire with pictures of museum exhibits. The students must search the museum for the exhibit and answer the two accompanying questions. Students may work in small groups, but each is given the questionnaire to answer. The hunt is followed by an answer session in the museum classroom. The museum staff will go over the questionnaires and provide additional historical information concerning each exhibit. Staff frequently asks "bonus questions" and reward correct answers with small prizes.
Program Length: approximately 2 hours
Class Size: 6-60
Recommended for ages 12 and older (grades 7-12). Middle school and high school students participate in a Questionnaire Scavenger Hunt. Each student receives a questionnaire concerning the museum exhibits. The students search the museum for answers. Students may work in small groups but each is given the questionnaire to answer. The hunt is followed by an answer session in the museum classroom. The museum staff will go over the questionnaires and provide additional historical information concerning the exhibits. Staff frequently asks additional "bonus questions" and reward correct answers with small prizes.
Recommended for ages 15 and older (grades 10-college). Young adults receive a guided tour of the museum given by museum staff or volunteer docents. The tour covers cryptologic history and its role in American/world history. Exhibits include: Civil War, WWI, WWII (including the German Enigma, Pacific War and Native American Codetalkers), Cold War, Korean War, Vietnam War, development of computers and American Information Assurance programs. Special emphasis can be placed on any of these areas upon request.
Program Length: 1-2 hours (teacher's discretion)
Class size: 6-40: (30 or fewer is recommended)
Home Schools and Small Groups
Designed specifically for home schoolers ages 9-16, but available to other small groups as well, this program has students search the museum looking for specific exhibits. They then answer four questions regarding each artifact, person, or event. In the museum classroom, students, or teams of students, will answer the questions in a game show format by buzzing in. The staff will provide additional historical information during a guided tour of the museum.
Program length: Approximately 3 hours
Class size: 6-15
Several talks and presentations can be provided to groups in addition to a field trip program or tour. Please allow an additional hour to your visit. Programs will be presented in the museum classroom before or after the field trip in the museum.
In conjunction with K-12 programs, talks on a wide variety of math related topics can be presented. A full list of talks can be found in the K-12 Speakers Bureau Catalog. Please select two or three choices so that we can best try to meet your request.
Several talks on cryptologic history are also available from the museum Educational Coordinator.
- Solving the Enigma - history of the German cipher machine, Enigma, and how it was solved by the Allies (high school and adult)
- Signaling the Civil War - cryptology and communications in the American Civil War (middle school through adult)
- Revolutionary Secrets - cryptologic techniques and their role in the American Revolution (separate talks for elementary students through adults)
- Secrets: Making and Breaking - introduction to cryptologic techniques with examples from the 18th - 20th centuries (middle and high school)
- Secrets Revealed - interactive introduction to cryptanalysis (middle and high school)
- Talking in Code - history of the Native American Code Talkers, including a fun game (separate talks for elementary students through adults)
- Creating the Legacy - the role of women in American cryptologic history (high school and adult)
Cub Scouts can earn electives at the National Cryptologic Museum in fun and interactive programs. The Tiger, Wolf, and Bear programs include an abbreviated tour of the museum. The Cubs will play a Navajo Code Talkers game and use both a simple cipher wheel and the Enigma to create a cipher message.
TIGERS can earn:
- "Curiosity, Intrigue, and Magic" electives #4 Create a secret code, #5 Crack a code, and #7 Science demo of how magic works (using invisible ink).
- "Stories in Shapes" elective #2B Use tangrams to create shapes
- (optional) "Tiger Theater" elective #5 Attend story time
WOLVES can complete "Code of the Wolf" and earn the entire elective.
BEARS can earn:
- "Forensics" #2 Analyze your fingerprints
- "Roaring with Laughter" #3 Short story with fill-in-the-blanks
- "Robotics" #2 Research robot work
(There are no requirements for Webelos that involve codes, but we will be happy to provide an age-appropriate program that includes a tour and hands-on ciphering.)
Program Length: approximately 1.5 hours
Group size: 6-12 Cubs of the same rank
NOVA math award "1-2-3 Go!"
Museum activities will complete #4 Secret Codes. Due to the advanced concepts involved, this program is recommended for Webelos only. Much of this badge requirement is taught in a classroom setting and the boys should be prepared to complete paperwork activities.
Program Length: 1-1.5 hours
Group size: 6-12
Programs are generally tours focused on areas specified by the leader, or they may select any of the other programs offered. A guided tour counts as 1.5 hours of research toward the "Designed to Crunch" NOVA award.
The Junior and Cadette programs were developed to meet the requirements for badges in the "It's Your Planet - Love it!" Journey.
Junior Girl Scouts will earn their "Detective" badge using clues to find different exhibits, test their powers of observation, try different ways to encrypt a message, and identify their own fingerprint patterns and handwriting. The program also includes an abbreviated tour of the museum with some hands-on activities and games interspersed, making earning their badge and learning about cryptology fun.
Cadette Girl Scouts will earn their "Special Agent" badge. This program includes an abbreviated tour of the museum that not only exposes the girls to the fun of ciphers, it emphasizes the role women have played in cryptologic history. While on the tour, the girls will have several hands-on activities and games like testing their powers of observation. Then they'll go into the classroom to write with invisible ink, identify their own fingerprint patterns, play a body language game, and sketch their favorite activity.
Program Length: Approximately 2 hours
Group Size: 6-12 girls of the same rank
(Note the badges must be purchased from the Girl Scout store and are not available at the museum.)
How to Schedule
Field trips can be scheduled by calling 301-688-5849 Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Have the following information ready before you call:
- Date and time of the visit
- Program choice
- Group size and age/grade (or scout rank)
- Point of contact/Teacher name
- Phone number
- Additional program if desired
- Gift Shop?
- Special requirements (sign language interpreters can be provided with advance notice: one wheel chair is available upon request)