From Jamestown To Phoenix And Back Again

The Middle School Travel Club had a blast exploring the nation’s finest collections of history in Washington D.C.

Connor Lowe, Columnist

On Friday, Mar. 13, 21 students met in the middle of a crowded airport. It was the Horizon Honors Middle School Travel Club, and they were gathering to embark on the first leg of their trip to Washington, D.C. Under the supervision of Mrs. Davina Baird (MS Humanities), Ms. Jessica Davis (MS Humanities), Mrs. Bethany Neel (MS Humanities), and Ms. Camille Hensel (HS Government), the students were in for five days of aching feet, negligible sleep, countless trips through security, and shameless exploitation at the hands of gift shops. All these delights were incorporated into five days of fascinating history, stunning architecture, two fully-immersive colonial towns, George Washington’s plantation, creepy wax statues, and amazing food.

After a four-and-a-half hour plane ride, the students barely got time to rest before they were whisked away by eager, crazy historians. The original plan was to visit the Smithsonian Museum of American History, but another opportunity arose – the National Archives were just about to open for tours! The teachers, with students in tow, marched through pouring rain and cold – miserable conditions by our standards – to stand by the door to the Archives. After a security guard delivered a lecture, the students crossed through security and made a beeline for the rotunda, the very room where three famous documents are kept: the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the Declaration of Independence.

Afterward, the students ate lunch at the National Gallery of Art’s sculpture garden deli, then continued on to the Ford’s Theater museum, learning about Lincoln’s role in the Civil War and the days leading up to his death. Then, they walked across the street to the Petersen House, which is better known as the house where Lincoln died after he was shot on the night of April 14, 1865. After a brief stop in the gift shop (where they admired the tower of 6,800 books on Abraham Lincoln), the students headed to the Holocaust Memorial Museum, which they roamed for the better part of the afternoon.

Afterward, the students needed a pick-me-up, so they stopped at the White House fence to take pictures, then went on to the Jefferson Memorial and the Lincoln Memorial. With aching feet, every muscle in their bodies complaining, the students finally arrived at their hotel, bringing an end to their first day.

The next day was no less busy. The students started their day at 7:00 a.m., eating a quick breakfast and then embarking on the two-hour drive to Mount Vernon, George Washington’s plantation, where they spent the morning learning about and discussing Washington’s life. Afterward, they went to Arlington National Cemetery, where they visited the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and witnessed the Changing of the Guard ceremony. The day ended with a visit to the World War II Iwo Jima memorial.

The next day, the student – under the cruel whips and vaguely threatening comments of their brutal taskmasters, the teachers – rose early and drove into the city. Their first stop was a full tour of the Capitol building, including the rotunda which, while still under construction, was an amazing sight. Next, the students visited the gaudy Library of Congress, which showed a startling lack of accessible books. Then, after lunch in a secretive underground buffet (strange, I know), students went to the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, choosing their must-sees and favorite exhibits to visit. Later that night, the group set off for Williamsburg, thus beginning the second segment of their trip.

This time, the group was blessed with a late morning. They meandered downstairs at nine o’clock, ate breakfast and piled into the bus to Jamestown. Not the real Jamestown – a restoration, with actors in full period-appropriate dress who were entirely willing to explain to passerby just what the heck they were doing lighting a fire in the middle of the road! Afterward, the students went to colonial Williamsburg, a fully restored historic town, more immersive than Jamestown, with full-scale reenactments and townspeople fully performing their jobs – there was a tailor weaving cloth, a man operating an entire 1800s clothing store, an entire regiment of British redcoats training with real guns and cannons, a man selling plastic water bottles – an amazing, fully immersive, historic experience.