Some unsolicited advice from a '98 participant:
The week goes by fast. There is so much to do. Yes, I know these are cliches, but
they are nonetheless true. Try to slow down the process by taking good notes (on
the word processor, of course) and by dividing up some of the tasks with your
partner. I found that the most valuable part of the entire Institute was in meeting
a whole bunch of smart, dedicated, like-minded educators. I wrote down many email
addresses, and have corresponded with some colleagues throughout the school year.
As far as creating the lesson plan goes: don't obsess over it. While you're in DC
it is sufficient that you and your partner familiarize yourself with the resources
of the American Memory collection, then conceptualize an idea and a general
structure for something that will interest your students. There is more than plenty
out there, so the process of just narrowing down your focus will take a lot of time.
Finally: have a good time. How many chances do you get to leave the Significant
Other at home, leave a note explaining What to Feed the Kids, and hang out for a
week with a terrific group such as this? The answer, in case you're not paying
attention, should be: "Not many." So work hard during the day, but then go back to
your room, nap-shower-change, then go out and enjoy yourself. Or else.