Follow along as our eighth grade students continue the CA tradition of visiting Washington, D.C.! They are off on the adventure of a lifetime!
Sunday, March 12
First stop, University of Virginia! The students had a wonderful time exploring the University that Thomas Jefferson helped to create. It was a very cold and snowy tour, but well worth it!
Monday, March 13
After a night in Charlottesville, VA, the group set out to visit Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s beloved mountain top home.
Along with a docent-led tour of the house itself, our students were also able to visit Mulberry Row (enslaved people’s quarters), Jefferson’s garden, the north annex, and the Jefferson gravesite and family cemetery.
Following the tour of Monticello, the group boarded the charter bus to travel on to Chantilly, VA, and the Smithsonian’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Air & Space Center. Students were able to see many different types of aircraft, including the Space Shuttle Discovery, the Boeing B-29 Superfortress “Enola Gay,” and a Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird.
After a delicious dinner at Chevy’s Fresh Mex, the group crossed the Potomac River to see the Lincoln Memorial. This awe-inspiring memorial made a fitting end to our first full day of touring and sightseeing.
Tuesday, March 14
Our second full-day dawned clear but cold, but our intrepid group was undaunted! Tuesday’s first stop was Arlington National Cemetery, where students were able to visit the Tomb of the Unknowns, the JFK gravesite, and the Space Shuttle Challenger Memorial.
In addition to the Changing of the Guard ceremony, we also had two students who were able to visit the graves of family members interred at Arlington.
From the ANC, our group moved on to a truly rare experience. Through the assistance and connections CA parent Tee Fountain, a retired US Army service member, our students were able to tour the Pentagon! In fact, the CA group was one of only two tour groups in the building on March 14th. Our Pentagon-sponsor, Mrs. Joycinda Hinton, met the group at the Visitor’s Center and introduced us to our tour guides, who were led by Sgt. Hawkins. The guides– members of the US Air Force, Army, and Navy– took students through several areas, including the Vietnam War exhibit, the Eisenhower exhibit, and the Women in the Military exhibit. Perhaps the most-moving portion of the tour was 9/11 Pentagon Memorial Chapel and the 9/11 Quilts display, which were quilt beautiful.
After the Pentagon tour, we moved across the street to the Pentagon City Mall, where students were allowed to pick from the varied options of the Food Court for today”s lunch. After this quick repast, we again boarded the charter bus to travel back into D.C. for our next stop– the United States Holocaust Museum.
This museum is an unique, interactive experience that documents the history and horrors of Nazi Germany’s “Final Solution.” Throughout the entire visit, the CA students were attentive and engaged, frequently asking excellent questions and making connections between the artifacts and their own life experiences.
During the visit, Mrs. McQueen ran into former CA student Kadence Winters, who was in Washington, D.C., with her parents!
After leaving the Holocaust Museum, we traveled to the National Mall and took a group photo with the Washington Monument.
Continuing on from the Mall, the group stopped at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History.
Although our stop was brief, the students had a terrific time in Natural History, exploring the many exhibits and the Museum Shop, which is the source of the “squid hats” seen in some of the forthcoming pictures.
Following Natural History, the group again boarded the charter bus to go to dinner at Good Stuff Eatery, where students enjoyed a dinner of hamburgers, pizza, or chicken sandwiches, along with some of the best french fries to be found. After dinner the group returned to the Tidal Basin area to visit the MLK, FDR, and Jefferson Memorials.
These last three visits of the day began at the MLK monument, which is one of the newest monuments in D.C. From there, the group walked around the Tidal Basin to the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial.
Despite the setting sun and cold temperatures, the students were very attentive and asked good questions about FDR, his family, and his historic presidency. From the FDR monument, we made the short ride to the Jefferson Memorial, where students learned more about Jefferson and his monument.
While it was certainly a very full and somewhat long day, the students were absolute troopers and seemed to have a great time in the nation’s Capital. A short bus ride brought everyone back to the hotel to get some sleep before Wednesday morning’s visit to Mount Vernon!
To be continued ….
Wednesday, March 15
Wednesday’s adventure began with a bus ride to Fairfax County, VA, and the home of our nation’s first President, Mount Vernon. Shortly after arriving, the group viewed a short video about the site, its history, and the Mount Vernon’s Ladies Association, the civic group that owns and operates the facility. Since we had a bit of a wait until out tour started, the group moved to the Education Center to tour the Mount Vernon Museum.
Afterwards, we were able to a 4D film presentation about Washington’s role as Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army. The film highlighted the victories at Boston, Trenton, Princeton, and Yorktown. From the Education Center, the students walked up to the mansion to begin the tour. Highlights included the “New Room,” which is actually the last room added to the mansion. We also saw five bedrooms, including the room were George Washington died, and examples of authentic period furnishings.
After exiting the mansion, our group moved to the East lawn for a group photo featuring Washington’s view of the Potomac River.
From the East lawn, we headed down South Lane to visit the Washington mausoleum and the Slave Memorial, which we learned includes one of the earliest historical markers in the US to acknowledge the life and work of enslaved people from the Colonial Era.
After a box lunch while driving back to DC, the group visited the Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial, commonly known as “the Wall.” While at the monument, Cade Wallace had the opportunity to make a pencil rubbing of PFC Kenneth Lee Conner’s name; PFC Conner had served in Vietnam with Cade’s grandfather before being killed in a helicopter crash in 1969.
From the Wall, the group traveled along Constitution Ave NW to the National Archives Museum. Inside the Archives, we entered the Rotunda of the Charters of Freedom, where students were able to see original copies of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. Additionally above these exhibits, visitors observe the Faulkner Mural, which were painted in 1935-1936 and depict an imagined version of Thomas Jefferson presenting the Declaration of Independence and of James Madison presenting the completed Constitution.
After leaving the National Archives, the group moved to the west side of the US Capitol for our official group portrait. Copies of this photo will be delivered in the next few weeks as a memento of the 2023 D.C. Trip.
After the photoshoot, the group walked to the Capitol Visitors’ Center to begin our tour. In the Capitol, students toured many areas of interest, including the Crypt, the Rotunda, and Statuary Hall. The Crypt is located on the lowest level of the Capitol, is the oldest part of the building, and at one time was intended to be the final resting place of President George Washington.
Wednesday’s activities concluded with a visit to Pinstripes (Georgetown) Bowling and Bocce. This unique establishment serves a delicious food and provides a full-service bowling alley and indoor bocce court! Students spent an honor on the bowling alleys before sitting down to a delectable Italian family-style dinner service. Before leaving for the hotel in Manassas, the students partook in several different games, including a “Telephone”-style storytelling game that was quite interesting.
All-in-all, Wednesday was another banner day for the Washington, D.C. 2023 Trip!
Thursday, March 16
What a way to bring things to an end …. Thursday was our last day touring in Washington, D.C., and if was a day jam-packed with activities. We began with the SPY Museum, where the group learned about basic spy-craft, ciphers, and disguises. We also participated in one of several simulated missions, which required students to make use of the skills they learned about in the museum.
From the SPY Museum, the group traveled back to the National Mall area in order to visit the Smithsonian Museum of American History. Before entering the museum, Mrs. McQueen issued the students a challenge: find at least one fact that was new information to you and that you think no one else on the trip would know. Our tour itself started with a viewing of “Old Glory,” the original flag that flew above Fort McHenry in 1812 and was the inspiration for Francis Scott Key’s poem that provides the lyrics for the National Anthem. Afterwards, the students were allowed to move freely through the museum to explore the many and varied exhibits. Several people mentioned be excited to see important objects of pop culture like Dorothy’s Ruby Slippers from The Wizard of Oz, Mister Roger’s sweater, and Oscar the Grouch from Sesame Street.
Several of the boys also enjoyed seeing a bat used by St. Louis Cardinals’ great Stan Musial, Satchel Paige’s glove, and one of Babe Ruth’s bats. Some were also excited by an exhibit named “Dave’s Dream,” which was a customized Ford LTD lowrider.
After leaving American History, we traveled to L’Enfant Plaza, a unique underground shopping center with a large food court that game folks many options to choose for today’s lunch. After everyone ate, the group then walked about half a mile to return to the National Mall and the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC). On the way, we stopped the English Garden, which lies behind the Smithsonian Castle. we enjoyed the warm sunshine as well as the many beautiful flowers and trees, and we paused for another group photo. Unfortunately, the Castle itself– the very first building of the Smithsonian Institution— was closed for renovations so we could not check out those exhibits.
At the NMAAHC, our group was subdivided into platoons of 10 students plus one chaperone. Each group was directed to a predetermined location to begin our self-guided tour of the museum. Two groups headed upstairs to begin in the “Culture” displays, while the other two groups went downstairs to go through the History of African Americans, Slavery, and Segregation from the 1500s to the 1960s.
In the lower History levels, students learned about the development of slavery throughout history, from the Ancient World all the way through to Europeans trading in slaves for their colonies. The next section addressed slavery in American how that practice related to the Charters of Freedom. The exhibit then took students along the historical trail of abolitionism, the Civil War, the Reconstruction and Jim Crow, early 20th-century African American culture, and the Civil Rights Movement.
On the upper Culture levels, students viewed modern works of art created by African American artists, and learned about the many ways that African Americans impacted America and American culture. We saw exhibits that discussed the contributions of African Americans to the US military, Sports, Music, and Film & Television. Although the students were not familiar with all of the artists, musicians, actors, and tv shows and movies, many of them found the artifacts quite interesting. Naturally, the chaperones were sure to point out Clarksville-native and Olympian Wilma Rudolph.
Once we left the NMAAHC, the beautiful weather beckoned us to spend some time outdoors, so students were allowed a “recess” at the base of the Washington Monument. Everyone, especially the chaperones, truly enjoyed this 45-minute rest period in warm, late afternoon sunshine.
After recess, the group trekked from the Washington Monument area up to Lafayette Park and the White House. Along the way, we passed the Treasury Department and the bronze statue of Alexander Hamilton. Upon reaching Lafayette Park and the White House, the group organized for a quick picture with the White House as a backdrop.
From the White House, we traveled to the Promenade to board the Odyssey for our nighttime dinner cruise on the Potomac River. The group enjoyed a tasty meal and more than an hour of dancing aboard ship.
For those not interested in the dance party, the decks offered lovely views of D.C. and its environs. We were also treated to great views of a couple of very important buildings, The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and the Watergate Hotel and Office Building.
All told, we spent about 13 1/2 hours touring D.C. today. It was a full and exciting day, but it certainly took a toll on many of the kids, as one can see in today’s final photo. This photo shows Mrs. McQueen’s view of the bus on the drive back to our hotel.
Tomorrow is the final day, our return to Clarksville. While most of the day will be spent on the bus, we are planning one final tour at Virginia’s Natural Bridge State Park. It has been a wonderful week full of new experiences and great memories, but if we’re honest, most of the group is ready to get home, see family, and sleep in our own bed. With that said, we will see everyone in Clarksville Friday night.