While grade 6 hiked through Yosemite and grade 7 explored America’s national parks, the eighth graders traveled east to the Washington, D.C., area. The students and chaperones landed in Willamsburg, Va., on Saturday and enjoyed a dinner buffet at a local pizza restaurant before checking into the hotel.
The next day, the group made their first major stop of the trip at Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement on American soil. Tour guides gave them an in-depth look at the day-to-day lives of settlers in the 1600s, such as how they prepared food and made clothes. Harker students were prepared to give presentations to each other on what they were seeing all throughout the trip, and the first presentations were in Jamestown, given by Sophia Shatas, Ashir Bansal and Helen Wu. Next up was Colonial Williamsburg, which was kicked off by lunch at the King’s Arm Tavern, one of the area’s finest restaurants in 1772. During the tour of the area, students learned much about life in Williamsburg during colonial times, including the workings of the court system and, of all things, how wigs were made and worn. Here, Neil Movva, Apporva Rangan, Harry Xu and Kelly Wang gave presentations.
Following dinner, everyone got to experience an interactive African music program. “For many students, this was the highlight of the day,” said Jennifer Gargano. “We were able to experience music and dance in a slave quarter in Colonial Williamsburg. Not only were the students able to learn about the importance of music at this time but they also actively sang and danced with the family during this program.”
On Monday, the students and chaperones made another trip to Colonial Williamsburg to tour the governor’s mansion. “Seeing the 18th century décor was interesting, but the highlight for the students was walking through ‘the maze’; a six-foot tall hedgerow maze located in the gardens behind the Governor’s Palace,” Gargano reported. After leaving the mansion, students visited colonial-themed businesses such as the blacksmith and silversmith. They also played a round of the colonial game trap-ball, a precursor to the sport we now know as baseball.
At Pamplin Park, one of the most faithfully preserved battle sites from the Civil War, the group visited the Civil War Museum and learned about the lives of soldiers who served in the war. Students Hement Kunda, Megy Appalaraju, Simran Sing and Dylan Patel gave presentations to their groups on the park. After exploring the park and reenacting some moments from the battle, two bus groups visited the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial, while another went to the Jefferson Memorial. “It was absolutely beautiful to see in the evening,” Gargano said of the FDR Memorial.
The next day started with a guided tour of Capitol Hill. One group of students was introduced to a Capitol Hill employee who purportedly spoke 59 languages. One by one, 10 students held a conversation with him in a different language. “They were impressed, to say the least, and immediately understood why he might be a valued employee at Capitol Hill,” Gargano said.
From there, it was off to the Arlington National Cemetery, where the students got to see the eternal flame at the grave site of President John F. Kennedy, the memorial for the space shuttle Challenger and several other important monuments. “ The highlight, of course, was watching the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, followed by the laying of the wreath ceremony,” Gargano reported. During the ceremony, students Stanley Xie, Ransher Dhaliwal, Nikita Mittal and Savi Joshi laid the wreath at the tomb, with a ribbon inscribed with “The Harker School.” During the bus ride from the cemetery, students Arya Kaul, Nikhil Kishore, Allison Kiang and Nephele Troullinos gave talks about the importance of Arlington National Cemetery to each bus group.
The next stop on this particularly busy day was the American History Museum, where the students got to see the “First Ladies at the Smithsonian” exhibit, which displayed various dresses worn by past first ladies. Students also enjoyed the exhibition “Science in American Life,” which shows how various scientific advancements have affected American culture, for better or worse. Finally, the group ended the evening with a viewing of the play “Shear Madness” at the Kennedy Center.
On Wednesday, the students visited the Newseum, which features interactive exhibits about news and journalism. Quite a few students told Gargano “that this was one of their favorite activities thus far.” After watching a film about some of journalism’s most important milestones, the students spent time discovering the Newseum’s many fascinating exhibits. “From what I heard from students,” Gargano said, “they seemed to particularly enjoy the exhibits about Hurricane Katrina and Elvis.” While at the Newseum, students Neil Chitkara, Glenn Reddy and Tiara Bhatacharya gave presentations.
Next was a trip to Gettysburg, site of one of the most pivotal battles of the Civil War, where they received a guided tour of the historic battleground. “Many of the chaperones, in particular, were moved when a few of our students delivered the Gettysburg address by memory on the same grounds where Lincoln first delivered that speech,” Gargano said. The famous speech was recited by students Allison Kiang, Pranav Reddy, Glenn Reddy and Apoorva Rangan. After dinner at Dobbin House, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as part of the “underground railroad” that was used to traffic slaves out of the South, the students visited various memorials, including the U.S. Marine Corps Memorial and the World War II Memorial.
More student presentations were given to help put the visits into perspective. Nikhil Reddy, Julia Wang, Lekha Chirala and Jai Ahuja presented on Gettysburg and the Dobbin House, and Leo Yu, Matt Ho and Leena Kim gave presentations on the memorials.
The final day of the trip was “probably our best thus far from the students’ perspective,” Gargano said. It began with visits to three of Washington, D.C.’s most iconic sites: The Lincoln Memorial, Vietnam War Memorial and Korean War Memorial.
A quick tour of the White House was next on the agenda, and students visited several rooms on the first floor. “The tour was quick but the students were excited they were able to see the interior of the White House,” Gargano reported.