Harker’s grade 8 students, who traveled to Washington, D.C., on their class trip in October, are still speaking fondly of their whirlwind adventure exploring the nation’s capital.
Accompanied on the trip by Jennifer Gargano, assistant head of school for academic affairs, the journey began with a visit to Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement in North America, and Colonial Williamsburg, an interpretation of a colonial American city. The students were also able to participate in an interactive African-American dance and music program held in a slave quarter in Colonial Williamsburg.
“Specialized guides showed us what it was like to live in Jamestown in the early 1600s. One guide asked why certain posts had Roman numerals on them, and after one of our students responded, she (the guide) indicated this was the first time in her six years of doing these tours that someone answered that question correctly,” recalled Gargano.
The following day the contingent headed to Pamplin Historical Park, one of America’s best-preserved battlefields. The students first went to the Civil War Museum on the park grounds where they learned about the lives of soldiers who fought in the Civil War. Students also participated in military drills and visited the park’s recreated military encampment, experiencing elements of a common soldier’s life.
From there they visited the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, the Korean War Veterans Memorial and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Another highlight was a visit to the Newseum, where Gargano recalled that the students particularly enjoyed the FBI exhibit and a video about 9/11.
The students then met for dinner at the Capitol Hill Club, one of the most popular locations in Washington for lawmakers, government officials and other political figures to socialize and gather. Each year, during this evening, a former Harker student working in D.C. joins up with the group as a guest speaker.
“Eighth grader Alycia Cary introduced our speaker for this year, Stephanie Benedict ’08. Stephanie is currently an associate for Albright Stonebridge Group, a premier strategic advisory and commercial diplomacy firm. One of the many individuals she works with is Madeleine Albright, the first woman to have become the United States Secretary of State,” said Gargano.
The following day turned more solemn as the class visited the Iwo Jima U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial, Arlington National Cemetery, Ford’s Theatre and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
Toward the end of the trip, students visited the Capitol building, learning about the branches of the government and touring the House of Representatives, the Library of Congress and the Supreme Court. In keeping with annual tradition, the group took a photo in front of the Capitol.
New this year, the grade 8 students also had the exciting opportunity to visit the Washington Monument, the world’s tallest stone structure (at 555 feet), built to commemorate George Washington. “We took an elevator to get to the observation deck where we had an amazing view of the nation’s capital. This was the first trip where we obtained tickets to go to the top of the monument,” said Gargano.
By the end of the trip the students had fully bonded as a group, returning home eager to share highlights of their trip with friends and family. The grade 8 visit to Washington, D.C., was one of several weeklong middle school class trips held during the fall. Grade 6 went to the Santa Cruz Mountains and grade 7 toured national parks around the Southwest.