Monday, October 20, 2014

Tales of an 8th Grade Adventure - The Trip of a Lifetime

Last week I was able to be part of an amazing class trip. 280 of our 8th grade students from Hilliard Weaver Middle School (located in Central Ohio) journeyed to our nations capital. Heading to Washington D.C. would be like no other school experience I have been a part of in education. This was about to be, unbeknownst to them, the trip of a lifetime.

Early Monday morning we boarded charter coaches, waived farewell to our parents and headed out east toward our nations capital. What was in store for them was a walk through our nation's history. The landmarks we visited were unforgettable. The reactions the students had to the memorials were genuine. Their time spent at the Holocaust Museum and Arlington National Cemetery was emotionally taxing. And, through their interactions with Veterans from the Vietnam Wall to the Korean War Garden to the World War II Memorial, students engaged in conversations with Veterans that were heartfelt and full of of emotion. It was mesmerizing to witness these talks between youth and their elders. It was more than we as adults could have hoped. Our soldiers were grateful and impressed with our students' kind and heartfelt words. Students were genuine. Veterans appreciative.   

Each stop reinforced the notion that life-experiences are as important as we have always preached. Seeing history come alive through the eyes of teens is inspiring.

The time spent as we walked through the Smithsonians were hours of lessons wrapped up into one afternoon. We always encourage our teachers to offer authentic real-life experiences. These hours spent at the American History Museum and the Air and Space Museum were just that.  Real. Life. Experiences.

And finally, after three full days in the capital itself, we headed home with a stop at Gettysburg. The sights, sounds and smells of this historic land were moving. To hear the stories of the lives changed forever on the battlefields of this soil in rural Pennsylvania is a testament to our nation's legacy. Our students understood it. They knew this was more than just a field and a town. They heard the stories of our ancestors come to life. 

Regardless of personal interests, or the fact that they are middle school teenagers with a variety of priorities, there is compelling evidence that this trip, their 8th grade trip to Washington D.C., will be known as the trip of a lifetime.

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