Unity Charter Middle School Field Trip to Washington DC

Written by Peter. Posted in Education, Whole Child Education

One of the most wonderful and unique aspects of Unity Charter School is field trips.  Field trips offer students a hands-on experience that they can’t get in a classroom, no matter how stellar the lesson plans.   Every year, the Middle School takes two overnight field trips in addition to numerous day trips.  The fall trip is geared toward the natural environment, and takes place at Camp Speers-Eljabar in Dingman’s Ferry, PA. The spring trip is usually centered around a city.  This year’s trip was to Washington DC. I was fortunate enough to attend this trip to our nation’s capitol, along with my 6th grade daughter, Hallie.  Following are a few excerpts from our travel journals. Monday, April 16 Ronni:  We arrived at school bright and early and boarded two buses for the almost 5-hour trip to DC.  The bus ride was incredibly smooth and comfortable and the children were so well-behaved.  Time flew!  We arrived into Union Station a little bit after noon, just in time for lunch.  After lunch we boarded two duck boats, which took us for a tour through the city streets, followed by a tour in the Potomac River!  Our duck boat driver let the kids take turns at the wheel, which was pretty exciting for them.  In addition to hearing stories and history of Washington DC landmarks, the kids really enjoyed their duck whistles!  After the tour we boarded the buses again for another tour, this time of the John F. Kennedy Center For the Performing Arts.  It was interesting to hear about the history, as well as tour the various stages and concert halls.  I was so impressed by the intelligent questions our students asked the tour guides.  We even had a family outside of Unity tour with us, and they too commented on how well-behaved our kids were.  Next, it was back to Union Station for dinner, and then to the 4H National Conference Center for bed.  Hallie: We got to school really early to get on the bus. The bus ride was fun, because I sat next to my friends. When we got there, we went to Union Station, which was huge! Then we went on a duck tour and learned a little bit about almost everything in Washington. It was a great tour, we learned a lot, and we all took turns driving the boat. Then we went to the conference center, and we had bunk beds. My roommates were exhausted, so we went to bed early.  Tuesday, April 17 Ronni:  We woke up early for another day of sight-seeing!  After a fabulous breakfast at the Conference Center, we split up into groups.  Grades 7/8 went to tour the Holocaust Museum, and Grades 5/6 went to the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History.  Since I was with the 5/6 group, I was off to the Smithsonian. None of us realized what a pleasant surprise awaited us as we boarded the buses.  As we approached our destination, we noticed people gathering around the National Mall, an open-area park in downtown Washington DC.  Joeleen told us that the space shuttle Discovery was
Space shuttle being transported above Washington DC

Space shuttle being transported above Washington DC.

scheduled to arrive in DC to be put on display at the Smithsonian, and it was scheduled to fly over the area.  Just then, we saw it!  The shuttle was piggy-backed on a modified 747 jet, and circled the city several times.  Needless to say, students, parents, and teachers were thrilled to witness such a historic event!  Many of the kids took wonderful photos, and came back with an amazing story to share. After the shuttle sighting, we made our way into the Museum of Natural History, where we saw some fascinating exhibits.    We then met the 7/8 group for lunch, where they shared their experience at the Holocaust Museum.  Due to perfect timing, some of the students had the opportunity to read off some of the names of the people who lost their lives during the Holocaust.  I was told by both the adults and the students in the 7/8 group that the Holocaust Museum was a very moving experience.  After lunch, we all made our way to the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum, and then took some time for with a quick dinner…  we still had much to do!  After dinner we toured the National Monuments.  We saw the Washington Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, and the Jefferson Memorial.  One of the most poignant parts of the day was walking through the Korean War Memorial and the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial. Carved into the Korean War Memorial are the words, “Freedom Isn’t Free.”  I took my group of kids to read that sentence, and we discussed what it meant. It was inspiring to hear that they seemed to understand how many people lost their lives so that our country could be free.  We were all also moved by the nearly 60,000 names on the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial. Seeing all the names there helped the kids understand the magnitude of war, and that was a very valuable lesson.  After the depth of the Memorials, we lightened things up a bit.   Back at the Conference Center, some of the kids held an impromptu “Dance Party.”  I can’t remember the last time I laughed so much!  The kids had a great time, and it was a true bonding experience for them.
Unity Charter School Students inside the Lincoln Memorial

Inside the Lincoln Memorial

Hallie: One of the coolest parts of the trip wasn’t even planned!  We saw the Space Shuttle Discovery fly over us. We even got some good pictures. We had to go a different route to get to the museum, and we’re all glad we did. Our timing was perfect! It was really exciting.  At the Museum of Natural History, I loved the Ocean Hall exhibit. I’m really interested in the ocean, so this was perfect for me. I saw beautiful seashells, all different types of fish, and even a giant squid! There was also an exhibit that had x-rays of fish. That was really cool, too. This was one of my favorite parts of the trip.  I also liked the Memorials. Some of them were sad, and others were inspiring.  They got me thinking of all the people who fought for our freedom.  Another of my favorite things about the trip was being with friends. It was awesome to get to know people that I never really talked to in school. We even had a dance party! Having friends there made the experiences so much fun.  My roommates were really nice, and my group was, too.

On the steps of the Lincoln Memorial

Wednesday, April 17 Ronni:  We finished our trip with a visit to the National Zoo.  Here we saw panda bears, lions, elephants, monkeys, and all kinds of reptiles and other animals.  We then boarded the buses for our ride back home, which was again, easy and comfortable.  We arrived back at Unity at dinnertime.  I was so impressed with how well our students behaved, and how much value they got out of the trip.  They asked intelligent questions, they were respectful at the Memorials and the Museums, and they treated each other with care. Hallie: On the last day, we went to the zoo. The panda bears were adorable! The trip was great. I think everyone had a lot of fun and learned a lot. We saw memorials, museums, and had a good time being together.  A lot of schools only let 8th graders go on these types of trips, but at Unity all middle schoolers get to experience them.   I’m so happy I got to go!