American Studies Takes Washington DC
March 7, 2020
After spending months studying national identity, the eleventh grade American Studies classes voyaged to Washington, D.C. to visit the monuments and museums honoring and telling the stories of those who shaped the definition of what makes an American.
The group of 115 boarded the buses bright and early at six am on Thursday and started the five-hour journey to the nation’s capital.
The quiet ride ended at around eleven-thirty in the morning at Capitol Hill. Students headed off the bus and met with their respective classes. Some had the chance to witness a protest by the National Treasury Employees Union on the lawn outside of Capitol Hill.
Once inside the building, classes witnessed both the House of Representatives and the Senate in session.
Following the visit to Capitol Hill, the group walked the scenic two miles to the next stop; the Smithsonian African American History Museum. The museum is organized in a chronological manner. Visitors take the elevator all the way down to the ground floor and start at the beginning of African American history. As one walks through the exhibits, time advances until the exhibit becomes more directed at current events. On the upper floors of the museum are culturally-based exhibits, where students have the opportunity to explore sports, music, and the general culture of African American people.
The African American Museum was a favorite for many, including junior Noah Weber ’21. “Walking through the museum was an incredible experience as I was able to see the history we had learned in class right before my eyes,” reflected Weber. Students took the opportunity to visit the exhibit of Emmett Till’s coffin, an especially moving and important part of the museum as classes spent time studying his specific story earlier in the year.
Another two miles of walking and students made it to Union Station for dinner, where a highlight of the trip took place: Chick-Fil-A.
After dinner, everyone hopped back onto the buses for the national mall and monuments tour. The first stop was the Lincoln Memorial, straight across from the Washington Monument. In the pitch black of the evening, both sites stood out in the bright lights highlighting them.
A special part of the night was the visit to the Vietnam War Memorial. Prior to the trip, some students researched the name of a specific person who died, and at the memorial, everyone had the opportunity to find the name of the person they chose.
The group went back on the buses and traveled to the FDR Memorial and then the MLK Memorial. Another great photo-op was the Jefferson Memorial across the Tidal Basin, where the MLK and FDR sites stand.
The next day, students broke off into different groups, going to a location of their choosing. Groups went to Frederick Douglass’s house, the National Archives, Arlington National Cemetary, and the Museum of American History. Weber, who went to Frederick Douglass’s house learned “more about him than I had known from reading his autobiography. I learned a lot more about his second marriage and his new life in Washington, D.C.”
The trip wrapped up with another visit to Union Station, and more Chick-Fil-A, before heading onto the buses for the sleep-filled ride back to SHS.
All in all, “the trip was a great experience and fit the curriculum very well,” concluded Weber.