Near the end of October, Wheatley’s 8th grade students took an amazing trip to our nation’s capital. For three days and two nights, members of the Class of 2024 toured Washington, D.C. and its environs.
Students departed from Wheatley early morning on Monday, 28 October. After an unexpected bus delay in New Jersey, students and teachers dove right into the history of our nation at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History. Inside, students immediately visited Fort McHenry’s Star-Spangled Banner, the flag that provided the inspiration for Francis Scott Key’s poem that became our national anthem. Wheatley’s students visited “The Price of Freedom” exhibit, in which they learned about the role of the United States in every war and global conflict from the American Revolution to the War on Terror. This very moving exhibit is one of the most visited in the Smithsonian. They enjoyed pop culture artifacts from The Wizard of Oz (1939), including Dorothy’s Ruby Slippers and the broomstick of the Witch of the West!
After a great dinner at the California Pizza Kitchen (and a special birthday dessert for Jojo!), the guides brought us on a truly meaningful tour of the Korean War Veterans Memorial, Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and the Lincoln Memorial. The evening was perfect; the sky was crystal clear and the temperature was in the 60s.
As we arrived at the hotel at 9:00 P.M., students were surprised with an ice cream social!
The second day, students and teachers got up early and visited our nation’s most sacred shrine, Arlington National Cemetery. Like generations of Americans before them, our youngsters visited the Kennedy Gravesite, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and the Iwo Jima Marine Memorial. The changing leaves amidst the neat rows of headstones was very inspiring. Students watched the entire Changing of the Guard ceremony before taking a group picture.
After lunch, students visited the National Air and Space Museum of the Smithsonian Institute. In a history-meets-science and technology experience, they visited the original 1903 Wright Brothers Flier and engaged in hands-on aerospace learning. Students marveled at two important machines built or flown from Long Island: the original lunar lander, built at Grumman, and Charles Lindbergh’s Spirit of Saint Louis, flown from Roosevelt Field to Paris in 1927. The group then visited the Museum of Natural History, where they enjoyed the new dinosaur exhibit, interacted with butterflies, and saw the Hope Diamond.
That afternoon, Wheatley students and teachers visited the famous National Archives and got the chance to stand inches away from some of the most famous documents in history: the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and original primary sources they had studied in 7th and 8th grade social studies. Next was a visit to Ford’s Theatre, where students saw the booth in which Abraham Lincoln was assassinated and visited a Lincoln museum, and the Petersen House, where the history exhibit continues.
Students and teachers enjoyed a “rockin'” dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe before boarding the buses for another gorgeous night of touring key monuments and memorials: World War II, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (the newest in the District of Columbia), and Thomas Jefferson. Students were especially moved by the setup of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, constructed based on his quote, “Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope.”
On day three, Wheatley toured the Capitol Hill area. Since we are a small school, we were able to get a personalized tour of the Capitol, which highlighted the Rotunda (with its paintings commonly featured as primary sources in social studies classes!) and the National Statuary Hall, which was the original House of Representatives. Following a tour of the Capitol, students went on a walking tour of the area, including the Library of Congress and the Supreme Court. We then waved good-bye to our talented tour guides and boarded the buses back to Wheatley.
A huge “Thank You” to Dr. Scott Eckers, our Social Studies Chair, for spearheading this wonderful adventure for our youngest students. Thank you as well to the chaperones who joined him in giving three days to our eighth graders: Ms. Courtney Clarke, Mr. Jason Craven, Ms. Tara Dennington, Mr. Steve Finkelstein, Ms. Caterina Fox, Mrs. Michelle Gross, Mr. Ron Roaldsen, Mr. Patrick Shanahan, and Mr. Joseph Yasinoski.
[Thank you to Dr. Eckers for the write-up and photos!]