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Washington trip exposes students to history, hands-on learning

Washington trip exposes students to history, hands-on learning
Irwin Goldberg
Red Hook students pose for photo in Washington, D.C.

An overnight school trip can be rowdy. Free of the confines of the classroom and surrounded busloads of friends, the fun can sometimes overwhelm the education.

But as the eighth-grade gaggle from Linden Avenue Middle School reached the Tomb of the Unknown Solider at Arlington National Cemetery, the mood changed.

“They really came together to respect the changing of the guard,” said Class of 2028 co-advisor Lauren Cerulo. The pensive calm was similar one day earlier at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. “It’s those quiet moments where they rise to the occasion and are really in-tune. They see something they know nothing about.”

The annual eighth-grade trip to Washington D.C. April 24-26 struck a balance between a lighthearted way for students to celebrate the end of middle school and a tangible educational experience that caught some students by surprise. 

Highlights of the trip, Cerulo said, ranged from time in museums and a tour of the Capitol Building to a dinner cruise on the Potomac River.

“They hang out. There’s usually a DJ and a dance floor,” she said of the cruise. “We got off and the kids were like, ‘Thank you so much for doing this. It’s nice to be together.’”

The American History Museum made a somewhat unexpected impression on Noah Munn.

“We got to see a lot of relics from World War I, World War II. It was really cool,” he said. “I didn’t think it would be as fun to be at the museums, but it turned out to be fun.”

Through news broadcasts, movies and television shows, not to mention classes and textbooks, everyone knows about Washington D.C. and its monuments. But going there and feeling its gravity is a different experience. Lemoni Castelo Branco said she didn’t truly understand the historic feeling of its streets.

“It’s nice to be there in the spring,” she said, noting, “it’s really clean.”

Making the nation’s capital and history a physical reality is the point of the trip, Cerulo said.

“They get to see a lot of history,” she said. “They learn about it, but it’s the hands-on stuff. They actually are there and get to experience it and see it.”

Castelo Branco said the Holocaust Museum made an impression. She said they listened to a survivor tell their story of losing most of their family, and walked down a recreated street.

“It was like walking there and seeing what they saw,” she said. “I found it really cool.”

Cerulo said the students were eager to ask about the experiences and jobs of people they met along the way, as well as the tour guides stationed on each bus.

“At the White House, some of the kids wanted to talk to the Secret Service who were guarding out front,” she said. “They really get to speak to people who have actual knowledge and get to ask what they want to ask about what’s going on.”

In addition, the group visited Fort McHenry in Baltimore; the Washington Monument, the Natural History Museum, the National Archives, and the World War II, U.S. Marine Corps War, Korean War, Vietnam Veterans, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., FDR, Jefferson and Lincoln memorials.

“It’s being there and seeing it for them, that’s the big thing they take away from it,” Cerulo said. “That, and a dinner cruise.”

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