Grade 8 students embarked on the annual class trip to the Washington, D.C., area in late October, hitting many historic cities and sites throughout the week.
Their trip began in earnest on Sunday, Oct. 22 with a visit to the first permanent English colony on the American continent, Jamestown. “Students spent about two hours exploring and learning about life in the re-created colonists’ fort, Powhatan Village, as well as the three ships (Susan Constant, Godspeed and Discovery) that sailed from England to Virginia in 1607,” said Keith Hirota, middle school history chair and one of the chaperones on the trip. Later that day, the group visited Colonial Williamsburg to eat at the King Arms Tavern, established in 1722, which served the elite citizenry of Virginia during the colonial period. They then took a tour of Colonial Williamsburg. “We concluded our evening with an African-American slave interpretive program through song and dance,” Hirota said. “Students and teachers participated in several African spiritual dances as well as individual students who led the group with their own individual dance moves.”
The next day, at Pamplin Park, the students gained insight into daily life during the Civil War, visiting a reconstructed period kitchen, as well as livestock and tobacco barns. “Students learned, but were not sold on eating, the Confederate army’s ‘Johnny cake’ – corn meal poured over grease from fried salted pork,” Hirota reported. Their next stop was the National Museum of the Marine Corps, which dazzled the students with its many exhibits dedicated to the history and future of the U.S. Marine Corps. That evening, the students heard from two Harker alumni currently living in Washington, D.C., Margaret Krackler ’13 and Sean Knudsen ’14. Krackler chronicled her studies at Georgetown University Medical School, while Knudsen talked about his experiences as a political science and economics major at George Washington University.
Tuesday started with a visit to Arlington National Cemetery, where students learned about some of the many famous soldiers and political leaders interred there, and viewed the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which included a flyover from four F-15 fighter jets. Other stops that day included the Capitol Building, the U.S. Supreme Court and the Library of Congress. The students also had the chance to meet Congressman Ro Khanna, who represents California’s 17th district. He spoke to the students on a number of current issues and answered their questions. “Congressman Khanna was thoroughly impressed with not only the number, but quality of student questions,” Hirota said.
An activity-packed day awaited the students and chaperones on Oct. 26, as students visited some of Washington, D.C.’s most popular sites, including the Vietnam War Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, Korean War Memorial and the White House. At the Holocaust Museum, students learned about the rise of Nazi Germany in the 1930s and the children who lived through the Holocaust. At Mount Vernon, the famous 21-room mansion of George and Martha Washington, the students learned a number of fascinating details about the life of the Washingtons, including that they owned more than 8,000 acres of land and that the first president’s false teeth were not, in fact, made of wood.
On their final full day in Washington, D.C., the students walked to the National Mall and were treated to views of the U.S. Capitol and the Washington Monument. At the Newseum, they looked at front pages from more than 700 newspapers from around the world and learned about the history of newspapers and magazines in the United States. During a visit to Ford’s Theater, the site of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, students learned about the conspiracy that led to the death of the 16th president and even saw the Derringer pistol that John Wilkes Booth used in the killing. Students visited other sites throughout the day, including the National Archives, which offered views of the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights.