Sunday: This evening, the eighth grade US History students arrived in Williamsburg, Virginia. They enjoyed dinner at the Golden Corral and then made their way over to a Colonial Virginia Farm called the Great Hopes Plantation. “At the plantation, we learned about how African Americans used music as a way to survive their harsh conditions,” shared SCCS History teacher, Mrs. Coughlin. “Now, time for sleep!
Monday: This morning, students headed out to Jamestown where they visited Native American and colonial settlements and learned what life in America was like early on.
From there, they traveled to Colonial Williamsburg. Students enjoyed an outdoor sack lunch at a little tavern, got to explore the town and had a guided tour of the town. Students toured the Governor’s mansion, the capitol building, several working trade shops, the town jail, and so much more.
After feasting on a traditional turkey dinner at an upscale tavern, students boarded a bus and headed to DC. Their last stop for the evening was at the sobering Pentagon Memorial where those who lost their lives on 9/11 were honored
Tuesday: Students woke up to another wonderful breakfast at their hotel and a lovely half hour drive to Mount Vernon, the home of George Washington. They went through his home and all around the beautiful grounds, which overlook the Potomac River. They enjoyed lunch there and some were even able to see a small wreath laying ceremony at his grave just down the hill from his house. From there they traveled into DC to Ford’s Theatre, the place where Abraham Lincoln was shot. The group learned all about the timeline of events from that day and exactly how John Wilkes Booth planned and orchestrated the assassination of our 16th president. They even went across the street to see the place where Lincoln actually died the next morning.
Their next stop was the National Archives Museum where they were able to view the Magna Carta, Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and other documents. After a busy afternoon, they worked up a good appetite for a delicious Italian dinner at Carmine’s. Dinner rejuvenated them for their whirlwind tour of several memorials and monuments towards the end of the evening. They saw the Albert Einstein Statue, Vietnam War Memorial, Abraham Lincoln Memorial, Korean War Memorial, Jefferson Memorial and the US Marine Corp Memorial. Students acted as tour guides at each stop with prepared presentations. They did a great job informing the group!
Wednesday: Students began their day with a tour of the White House. Upon their arrival, the group went through many security checks and entered through the East wing. Students were allowed to walk through some of the hallways and see rooms that were beautifully decorated. They even saw a full-size soccer goal on the grass out the window, which was a reminder that a child resided at the home. As they continued through, they exited out the “front door” which again, was surreal, in and of itself. Students took advantage of being allowed to take some pictures before they headed off for their next adventure.
Down the road from the White House, the group headed into the Capitol Building where a gentleman from Steve Knight’s office met them. He gave them a brief overview of what goes on in the Capitol and what congressman Knight has accomplished. They had lunch downstairs in the cafeteria, where decorated members of the military joined them at the end of some of their tables. Students then toured the Capitol, the Library of Congress, and the Supreme Court building. Students saw all three branches of our government today. Seeing the rich history within all these walls brought to life what students have been learning.
Thursday: The day began with a hearty breakfast, and then the group made their way to Arlington National Cemetery where 4 students had the honor of taking part in a wreath laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. A few people in our group had family members buried there and were able to visit their graves. It was a moving experience for everyone to see first-hand the cost of our freedom.
Next, the students traveled to the Air and Space Smithsonian. On display were examples of all forms of air travel, from the earliest of planes to the Mars Rover, to military planes.
From there the group went down a few blocks to the Newseum, an interactive museum that traces the evolution of communication and how news travels. They watched news reports from 9/11, walked through a room filled with Pulitzer Prize winning photos, went through an FBI section, saw a large section of the Berlin Wall, got to see the last 75 Pictures of the Year, and many other exhibits. It was a very moving and fun stop.
The group enjoyed a relaxing picnic dinner at Yard’s Park, on the water just down from the Washington National’s Ball Park. Students had catered box dinners and enjoyed some free time after a busy day.
The group finished out the day with two more memorials. First, was the WWII Memorial where kids looked at different states, enjoyed the fountains, and pondered over the stars, which represented lives lost in that war. Right across the street was the Washington Monument, standing tall in all its beauty! Both of these memorials were sights to behold and offered a great way to end the night.
It was very difficult to get in, but the FBI Museum was a special experience. It was located inside the Federal Bureau of Investigation headquarters, so security was extremely tight. Students saw evidence from major crimes solved in history such as the boat a terrorist hid in after the bombing at the Boston Marathon and pages from the Unabomber’s manifesto. They also had very good timing because they got to see some law enforcement officers practice in the shooting range!
Next, the group visited the Smithsonian Museum of History where they saw the Star Spangled Banner that inspired Francis Scott Key, George Washington’s uniform, the seats used by Generals Grant and Lee at Appomattox Courthouse, and Abraham Lincoln’s top hat!
Finally, students toured the FDR Memorial and the Martin Luther King Memorial. The MLK memorial is one of the newer memorials and symbolized the Stone of Hope from one of his speeches. The vastness of the FDR memorial covered the different aspects of his 4 terms in office, each with its own design and meaning.
After a busy day, the group finished with a trip to Madam Tussaud’s Wax Museum for a private dinner event. The night was full of fun and memories.
Friday: The group prepared to leave the DC area and head to Gettysburg, PA. While packing up, students were enamored with the security detail they saw, as a Four Star general was staying at the same hotel. Arriving in Gettysburg, students were greeted with fall coolness in the air, and more changing colors on the leaves than they had seen all week. A short film introduced us to what happened at Gettysburg. Next students went above to the Cyclorama Theater, a 42’ high by 377’ wide canvas painting in a complete circle. Painted in the 1800’s, it was just recently restored. After that, students headed on the bus for a guided tour (mobile classroom) around the battle grounds of Gettysburg. The tour guide, a retired veteran who was on the faculty at The National War College teaching war tactics and leadership, gave a riveting presentation. He kept everyone captivated and even gave several charges to the students to lead well.
After the tour and some lunch at the visitor center, the students, were given a little free time to walk through the museum. Next the group headed up the road to the Soldier’s National Cemetery where many of the lives lost at Gettysburg were laid to rest. Many of the graves are marked “unknown” as the army was unable to identify them. Cemetery planners aligned the bodies in such a way that they would rise shoulder to shoulder, in military formation, upon Christ’s return. The students gathered in small groups to discuss what they had leaned and quotes they had been given to analyze. They were given flags to go and place on graves and prayed and thanked God for our nation and for those who gave up their lives for us. It was an emotional experience for the group! After leaving the cemetery, students stopped at the Lincoln Address Memorial and several students participated in reciting the Gettysburg Address just 300 yards from where the address was originally given on November 19th, 1863. Finally, each student received a dog tag to keep as a reminder of what they saw and learned that day.
Later that day, the students went to Cherry Crest Adventure Farm for “fair type food” and some down time. Some call it an “Amish Disneyland!” There was a gigantic corn maze, a petting zoo, apple launchers, tractor pulls, large slides, pedal go cart races, gigantic sling shot pulls, and so much more. The group left having had a great time and ready for the last night of sleep before heading home.
Saturday: Ready for one final day of learning and exploring, the group started the day at Valley Forge, the winter encampment of George Washington’s Continental Army. Students saw soldier’s cabins, and also toured the house and command center where George Washington resided. It was one of the most historically preserved buildings on the tour, with about 80% of it in its original handbooks as Mr. Ken Kistler had a final discussion about remembering the sacrifices and cost of freedom, both that soldiers have made and, more importantly, the sacrifice Christ made on the cross for their salvation. Hopefully, students’ lives will be changed as they made the connection of how their freedom, both physically and spiritually, came at a cost. Students were charged with changing their views on their lives and country in light of what they learned.
The final stop was Independence Hall in Philadelphia. Students toured the building and saw the place where the Declaration of Independence (and later the Constitution) was created, voted on, and signed on July 4th, 1776, then went across the street where the Liberty Bell is housed. Philly cheesesteaks were delivered to the students at the park with the fresh air, birds and squirrels all around. After finishing there, students boarded the bus one last time, headed to the airport, where they said goodbye to their wonderful bus driver, Percy, and caught their flight home. Loving friends and family, all eager to hear about the fabulous trip, greeted students upon their arrival to LAX!
Thanks to Mrs. Coughlin for putting on such a jam-packed trip, filled with learning and fun!