Where did we go?
Yesterday, I got the amazing opportunity to chaperone my 7th graders on a field trip to Washington D.C. For many students in this area, this could potentially be the only time they would have to visit a city like this. We visited the Natural History Smithsonian and the American History Smithsonian. The students were AMAZED. They had the best time, it was so rewarding to see the looks of wonder on many of the kids faces. I loved seeing all of them find exhibits that really peaked their varying interests. Many went straight for the bugs section (not me!), and they even got to hold some of the creepy crawlies! Quite a few spent hours exploring the various exhibits about the war. As I walked around from group to group chatting with them, I was so impressed by the sheer amount of knowledge that they had that surpassed what they would learn in an average history class.
After leaving the Smithsonian’s, we traveled through the city and walked towards the White House. I mingled with various students as we walked and attempted to talk with them. Many were so focused on their surroundings that they simply stared at the massive government buildings, the hoards of people shuffling to or from work, and the overwhelming amount of cars speeding quickly by. The school that these kids attend is in a very small area outside of Lynchburg; nothing in the area even comes close to what they were seeing in Washington D.C. I saw the looks of awe and wonder as they slowly took in their surroundings. As we approached the White House, we stumbled upon a protest right outside of the White House. The students stared in amazement, and they simply stopped and watched the men and women march, yell, and hold up their signs with passion. This is something that these students have only seen on the news, it was an eye-opening experience that this was something that actually happens, real people having real ideas, and protesting outside of the very real White House. As we crossed busy intersections and neared the White House, we were stopped by a Secret Service officer, who quickly shooed us away from our path. This only enhanced their curiosity about such a place, so we meandered around the area until we found a clear path towards the White House. We were unable to get as close as we hoped, but this did not stop the kids from snapping as many pictures as possible on their phones and tablets. The scene ahead of them was something they had only seen in movies or newscasts. There was a sniper on the roof, crowds of people standing out front, large vans boasting of the president, and a helicopter circling the perimeter of the White House. It fell silent as the reality of what they were looking at sank in, this quickly abated as shouts of “Oh my gosh! This is so cool!” or “Take a picture of me, so I can make sure I tell my mom!” rose into the air. I couldn’t help but smile to myself and feel so privileged that I got to experience such an important moment beside the students that have taught me so much.
After the White House, we realized we had close to an extra hour before we needed to begin the long journey back to the school. We looked around and the kids were still full of energy, chasing each other around, playing tag, and even wandering over to the various venders around the perimeter of the block. We rounded them up and started leading the way towards the Washington Monument. As we got closer, many broke into a run as soon as they stepped onto the green grass surrounding the Washington Monument. I loved the fact that these kids were fully immersing themselves in the experience, and still managing to have fun while they did it. They approached the large monument and pulled out their dying cell phones to take all different kinds of pictures. My favorites were the ones that the students took that made it look like they were holding the monument in their fingers.
After this, we had a few extra minutes, so we walked down to the World War II memorial and the reflecting pond. The students climbed and explored all around the area and, of course, took more snapchats or pictures for Instagram. My favorite moment of the trip was when almost all of the kids sat down right in front of the reflecting pool. In my mind, they were all sitting and reflecting on the immense opportunity they just experienced. I hoped that they realized that they had just visited a memorial of a man that helped forge our nation, and now they were sitting on the steps of a memorial that was in remembrance of fallen men that furthered the ideals of the nation.
This field trip came towards the very end of my placement, so today was my last day with these kids. I have grown very attached, and I feel so lucky that I got the opportunity to work with these students. This field trip was a great time for me to see how all of these kids are outside of school. The field trip began at 5:30 A.M., and we did not return to the school until about 9:30 P.M.. This meant a lot of time was spent with each other, but I would not have changed anything. I absolutely loved how different kids would come up to me in the museums and grab me to take me over to an exhibit that they found super interesting. There interests were so varied and so unexpected. They ranged from World War II to the First Lady’s dresses to the American flag. The huge smiles, laughter, and obvious excitement were great reminders that I am doing something that I absolutely love: inspiring students. Even though the museums did not only revolve around English, I believe that they learned things from this experience that will give them real-world connections during future classes and lessons.