NORTH CRAWFORD - There is a saying that states, “It takes a village to raise a child.” North Crawford eighth graders know it also takes a village to send 25 eighth graders to Washington, D.C.
Over the course of nine months and after much fundraising, these eighth graders embarked on a memorable trip on May 15, to our nation’s capital city where history and government came alive. Not only did the students spend the week touring monuments, museums, and historical sites; but also they gained confidence and got to know their classmates better.
The group’s first stop was Ford’s Theater where President Lincoln was assassinated. While there, the students, chaperones, and teachers went on a self-guided tour through the museum and were able to view exhibits and artifacts from Lincoln’s presidency and assassination.
One of the most memorable artifacts on display was the single-shot derringer used to kill our 16th president. After the tour, students watched a short play depicting the tragedy of Lincoln’s assassination.
While watching the play, they gazed over to the presidential booth to get a sense of that fateful night of April 14, 1865, when President Lincoln, his wife, Henry Rathbone, and Clara Harris sat watching the comedy ‘Our American Cousin’ and a assassin took the life of the beloved president.
Angie Herfel and Sean Meyer were connecting what they had researched and read on President Lincoln prior to this trip. They even shared some facts they knew to the group. After the play ended, the students were ushered across the street to Peterson House, the hotel in which Lincoln was taken after he was shot and later died.
Immediately following the tour at Peterson House, the group boarded the bus and headed to Mount Vernon, home of our first president, George Washington. Currently, Mount Vernon is a working plantation with gardens, orchards, gristmill and distillery. Part of this tour included viewing his tomb. Even though the nation wanted President Washington entombed at the Capitol, he insisted he would be buried at his home. While North Crawford was there, a special ceremony honoring George Washington occurred. North Crawford’s Marco Esparza participated by reading eloquently a proclamation.
The first day in Washington, D.C. ended with a dinner at Pentagon City. Nathan Zibrowski was able to meet his aunt and uncle who live in the D.C. area for supper.
Wednesday, May 17 started at 7:15 a.m., when the tour group boarded the bus and headed to the Capitol. They were met by their tour guide who spent the day with them sharing his knowledge about the Capitol, the National Archives, and Arlington Cemetery.
Later in the evening, the students had a night tour of the national monuments. As the sun was setting, the students passed the Vietnam Memorial where over 50,000 names are etched. They then walked to the Korean Memorial with its lights casting shadows among the Korean soldiers that stood in combat poses.
The group’s favorite was The Lincoln Memorial. Its peaceful, majestic form stood over the group as if it was protecting them from harm. Looking across the Potomac River they saw the Arlington House, once owned by Robert E. Lee’s family but lost during the Civil War. Bridging these two historical places is the Memorial Bridge, a symbol of forgiveness and change.
The fourth day of the trip was Smithsonian Museum day! Students visited the Air and Space Museum, the American Museum of Natural History, and the National Museum of American History.
Of these three, the Air and Space Museum was the favorite. Groups of North Crawford students explored the aviation exhibits, watched a movie on space in the planetarium, and marveled over the technological advances made in the field of space exploration.
The last museum was the Holocaust Museum. Etched on the wall near the entrance of this somber place are the words of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, “The things I saw beggar description…The visual evidence and the verbal testimony of starvation, cruelty and bestiality were so overpowering…I made the visit deliberately, in order to be in a position to give firsthand evidence of these things if ever, in the future, there develops a tendency to charge these allegations to propaganda.”
As students entered the building, it felt as if they were in a railroad station waiting for deportation. Each student was given a small pamphlet containing the biography of a victim of the Holocaust.
Students continued through the museum quietly, as they viewed short films depicting the history of this brutal time, examined artifacts, and stared into the eyes of portraits of the victims.
At one point, the visitors stepped into a railroad car, which had transported Jews taken from their homes. Nevaeh Peralta-Roe stood in terrifying awe, thinking of what had taken place in that boxcar 60 years ago. She had researched and read about the Holocaust, but it became more real when she stood among the evidence of cruelty and inhuman treatment.
The bus ride back to the hotel was quiet as the group reflected on what they had experienced. A birthday among the group helped lift the group’s spirits. Jace Roys turned 14 on May 18, so cupcakes and pizza was the celebratory meal to end the day.
On Friday, May 19, the students said goodbye to Washington, D.C. and headed west, back home.
One more stop was in order though, and the entourage stopped at Gettysburg for a tour of the battlefield. The eighth graders conducted a short military practice of marching and bayonet charging under the orders of their tour guide.
During the bayonet charge, a Confederate soldier, re-enacted by Raiden Steele, was driven back by the Union Forces.
After the tour of the battlefield, the eighth graders visited the new Gettysburg Visitor Center where they viewed the Cyclorama of Pickett's Charge. The Cyclorama is the result of years of restoration of a painting by French artist Paul Philippoteaux. The painting measures 377 feet in circumference and 42 feet high and is longer than a football field and as tall as a four-story structure. This painting was bought for the museum in the 1940s and was restored in the 1990s.
North Crawford eighth graders stood in front of the oil painting as light and sound effects brought the fury of Pickett’s Charge to life. No museum visit can be complete without a stop at the gift shop, and after the group bought last minute items for themselves and family members, the bus was loaded once again.
Finally, on Saturday, May 20, the tired travelers returned to North Crawford with heads full of facts, stories and memories.
This trip would not have been possible without the support of local businesses and the North Crawford School District; donations from community organizations like P.A.C.E. Club, Gays Mills and Soldiers Grove Lions; and family and neighbors who contributed to the quilt raffles and candle sales. A special thanks goes to Helen Stephen for donating the quilts for raffles and GoMacro for donating snacks.
Finally, the success of this trip can be attributed to the teachers and chaperones: Ms. Andresen, Mrs. Gander, Mr. Meyer, Mr. Ghormley, Ms. Fox-Gillespie, Mrs. Nutter and Ms. Allen, Mrs. Benson, Mr. Aspenson, Mrs. Chamberlain, Miss Caitlyn Stevenson, Mrs. Smith, Mr. Herfel and Mr. Thaldorf.
The efforts by the students, teachers, and community prove that dreams can become reality when all of us come together to work for a common good.