Juniors Visit our Nation’s Capital
The Junior class spent the better part of the week of October 16-20 in Washington, DC. The main goals of the trip were to introduce the students to our nation’s capital, to teach them about the structure and functions of U.S. government, and enjoy traveling with their classmates. Students were also able to do a little bit of exploring on their own around the dinner hour in the popular Washington, DC neighborhoods of the Penn Quarter, Dupont Circle, and Georgetown, thereby gaining a sense of the vibrancy of the modern metropolis that is Washington, DC.
Students arrived in downtown DC on Sunday evening after an early morning flight from the west coast, and on the first night they walked along the National Mall and took in the sights of some of the major monuments illuminated at night. Our walking tour began at the east end of the Mall near the Capitol, continued through the Washington Monument and World War II Memorial, and finished at the Lincoln Memorial. Then on our third day of the trip, students were able to see many of the monumental structures of the city on a Duck Tour, which included some time on the Potomac River, affording them a unique perspective of the city’s skyline.
At the Newseum, a museum dedicated to the role of journalism and the press, which included such highlights as the gallery of Pulitzer-Prize winning photographs and the virtual reality experience of the fall of the Berlin Wall, students participated in a hands-on workshop about the growing phenomenon of fake news. There, students analyzed articles in an attempt to determine their credibility and discussed the reasoning they employed in coming to a particular conclusion about an article’s authenticity. Then the workshop leader shared a number of online tools that can be useful in determining whether a news item should be considered credible. In a similar vein, on our last day in Washington, students took part in a simulation of the Cuban Missile Crisis at the Spy Museum, in which they had to play the part of analysts who evaluate documents and satellite images in order to advise a fictional President Kennedy in determining a proper course of action.
In addition to a visit to the National Archives to see the original documents of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights, students were introduced to the centers of the three branches of American government. Although we did not tour the White House, students saw the south portico of the White House on our nighttime monuments walking tour, and we visited the more familiar north side facing Lafayette Park during the day. Students also had an opportunity to view a series of exhibits on the Supreme Court before going into the courtroom itself and learning about the basic functions and practices of the Court. At the Capitol building they took a docent-led tour of the building and learned about the duties and responsibilities of the legislative branch, the history of the building and many of the works of art that it contains, as well as some of the basic practices of Congress.
And of course our trip would not have been complete without a trip to the Holocaust Museum. It was clear that the students found the experience very meaningful and powerful. Many of them were visibly moved by such poignant exhibits as the collection of shoes and the wall of photographs of European Jewry before the Holocaust, as well as by the testimonials of survivors. It was one of the highlights of what we hope was an unforgettable experience for our students.
Dr. Carlton Cunningham