Monday, April 19, 2010

Washington DC Trip - Days 3 and 4

I am sitting on the airplane right now...heading back from DC to California. I have been absent for the last few days as I haven't had time nor internet connection to update the blog. The weather has been fantastic - nice and warm Friday and Saturday, but cooling after that; yet the sun has been out making it perfect weather for touring! So, at this time I will continue telling you about the 8th grade trip to DC.

DAY 3 - Friday April 16, 2010
Once more we woke up at 6:30am with a wake up call and headed down to breakfast. It was time to make our way toward Washington DC, so everyone had to pack up their belongings after breakfast and get them on the bus.
We loaded up the bus and left the hotel around 9am - and headed to Richmond, the present day capitol of Virginia. We stopped and picked up another tour guide here, named Jim. He took us on a driving tour of downtown Richmond pointing out historic buildings as well as telling us all about the history of the city as it pertained to the beginning of the Civil War. We crossed over the James River and stopped on a bridge so that we could look over where the old iron foundries and flour mills use to be back in the late 1800s. 
We finally made our way to the National Museum of the Civil War Soldier and Pamplin Park. Here we learned what it would be like to have been a soldier in the Civil War - first by walking around the grounds and seeing a replica of a "winter camp" (not much fighting went on during the winter - the cold weather made it difficult to fire a gun and snow/rain made it difficult to travel).

We learned from Captain Ryan how muskets were loaded and how soldiers were disciplined...for example if they trailed behind the group during a march, holding up the group, they would be publically humiliated in front of their company - standing with a sign hung around their neck ("straggler" the sign would say) and they would have to hold bucket of heavy rocks for 24 hours or so.

After Captain Ryan educated us, we walked over to gain an understanding of what earth works were and how they were built up. Basically this was the defense system of an army to keep the other side out. It consisted of an earth wall, a trench and other structures made from logs.

Next it was time to head into the Museum of the Civil War Soldier. Here we learned what it would be like to have served in this war as each of us took on an identity of a solider who served back then; I was a boy from Wisconsin who was 16 - since you couldn't serve until you were 18, he had to lie in order to serve. Throughout the museum you listened to his story and how he felt, lived, survived...yes, I was lucky my soldier identity lived.  Between listening to the story, looking at the exhibits which included some artifacts from the war and the special effects - it moving. At times you really felt like you were in battle.
The exhibit was called "Duty Called Me Here..." and was based on a poem written by a soldier from the 34th North Carolina Infantry:
"I feel that Duty called me here, to fight for home and friends most dear,
and if I should be called to stand in bloody conflict hand to hand,
I'll trust in God my only stand, and fight until I win the day, or if it be my Master's will that I a soldier's grave must fill,
I trust that even in that event, I'll be resigned and fall content."
It was a very moving way to learn about the civil war...through the eyes of a soldier.

After lunch at a restaurant called Bottoms Up Pizza, we headed over to the White House of Confederacy (the home of Jefferson Davis - the Confederate President)

The Davis family had 6 children, whom all seemed to be problem children. It was built in 1818, but the Davis family only lived there between 1861-1865 (Civil War years). All the furniture was period pieces with over 50% original to the house.  It was a very beautiful house and the kids in the group loved the stories about the Davis children, especially because they seemed pretty spoiled and bad behaved :)
After we were done, it was time get to DC so that we could make it to the National Baseball game (which was what is a hockey mom doing at a baseball game anyway; no one drops their gloves...and we got rained on, something that doesn't happen at a hockey rink) and then to the hotel.

Day 4 - April 17, 2010
As per the routine...the wake up call came at around 6:30am, breakfast at 7:15am and board the bus at 8:00am. Today we are officially touring Washington DC. First up was Newseum - the museum of News. Here were able to go back into time and relive specific events by reading headlines of news papers. The first exhibit was one on the Berlin Wall. The museum actually had some part of the wall to look at and information to read about the event.

The building was 4 stories...and beginning on the forth floor, we had the chance to read about history looking at the headlines of papers written back in the 1500s to the present. As you continue to walk around and down through the museum, another exhibit which was very powerful was the one about 9/11. One of the antenae from atop the tower was here with a back drop of all the newspapers printed around the world regarding that event/day. There was also a newsreel that you could watch, which caused some tears to fall from some of our eyes.
By the way...even the bathroom had headlines to read. This one caught my eye:
"School testing mushrooms"
From the museum, we headed to the National Archives to see the Constitution, Bill of Rights, Declaration of Independence and so on. All the kids thought it really "neat" to see the official documents and the signatures of the founding fathers/authors.
Then it was time to take a formal photo in front of the US Capitol and on to lunch at the Pentagon City Mall Food Court (there were a lot of good choices - from salads to pasta, hamburgers to sandwichs, Chinese and Sushi), before heading on to Mount Vernon
Mount Vernon - home to Mr. and Mrs. George Washington. We were able to take a tour of the house, which was very interesting and beautiful inside. I think the kids really enjoyed walking through it and seeing where George spent some of his life.
Dinner at Phillips Flagship (a HUGE buffet of anything you could ever want - especially seafood...just ask one of the teacher chaparones of the trip) and onto all the different memorials (at night and in the chill of the evening). Here are some photos from those sights.

First-The Vietnam Veterans Memorial 

Second-The Korean War Veterans Memorial

Third-The World War II Veterans Memorial
Each Memorial was special and unique. Before walking around each, Dennis, our tour guide, gave us a brief introduction to the it was designed, what the symbolism was and so on. Then we all were able to walk around to get a feel for it. Some had lists of people who served and/or who died and some had quotes chiseled in stone. I think for me, while they all were beautiful and moving, there was something about being at the WWII memorial in the evening with all the lights and water/fountains (speaking of water, one of the kids was walking around observing and accidentally stepped into one of the "ponds" - it did lighten the mood).

The next place we went was the Lincoln Monument
Walking up the steps and seeing Mr. Lincoln sitting in front of you all light up was incredible. It was a wonderful way to end a perfect day of touring! We started the day learning about the Civil War and the part that Lincoln played and in the evening, we stood in front of him...felt the power of his presence.

At the end of day 4, reflecting on the trip so far, it is overwhelming to watch the kids take in all the information they are given, process it and ask for more. They respect the places we have been so far and will forever share the memories and bond they are establishing as they visit these places together. 
Well, it is time to put the finishing touches on this post as my battery is running low, but I will leave you with this photo of DC at night..
Thank you for visiting - come back soon as I will finish up with Day 5 and 6 very, very soon!

1 comment:

Donna said...

Day 4 exhausts me. I can hardly believe you did all that in one day. And at Mt. Vernon you were so close to one very nice LNS - In Stitches - but I doubt your bus driver would have stopped by there for you.