[By GCAA Seventh grader Magnolia Mulvihill, a member of the Website Reporting Club]
Each year, 7th grade GCAA students have the opportunity to visit what is arguably the most historic place in the U.S. Close Up is a fun way to see Washington D.C. and to learn about American history (here is an article reporting on the Close Up trip from May 2012). Close Up is an organization helping kids understand the importance of government and American history. This year, 19 students from GCAA traveled to Washington D.C. with 7th grade Social Studies teacher, Mr. Frig, and 6th grade Social Studies teacher, Ms. Jagusch. We departed Lambert Airport on Sunday, May 5 and stayed for four nights.
On the first full day in D.C., we visited the World War II memorial, the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial, and Arlington cemetery. At the World War II memorial we could feel the sorrow and terror the soldiers fighting in the war had to go through. The Martin Luther King Jr. memorial was inspiring, especially the quotes on the wall. At Arlington National Cemetery, the nation’s largest cemetery, the number of gravestones were overwhelming, giving visitors a palpable sense of appreciation for service to our country. We also had the privilege of observing the Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, as well as a visit to JFK’s tomb, where the eternal flame continues to burn in perpetuity.
On Tuesday, we traveled to Capitol Hill to learn more about our country’s government. Each student was able to meet one of his or her state’s representatives. We also visited the Library of Congress and the Senate. After exploring Capitol Hill, we took our group photo in front of the Capitol. Next we went to the Air and Space Museum for lunch, then loaded on to our bus to the Jefferson Memorial, which was stunning because of all of the beautiful marble used in building it. Then we went to the FDR Memorial, which was probably one of my favorite memorials because of its magnificent waterfalls and life-like statues. After that we saw the Lincoln, Vietnam, and Korean War Memorials, all of which were incredible. The Korean War Memorial was eerie because it was statutes of soldiers walking through a field, like they would have been in the war.
On Wednesday, we took a bus to Gettysburg where we explored a museum, watched a movie, and experienced a Cyclorama about the Civil War. After that, we went on a battlefield tour and saw many sites of Gettysburg. We were extremely fortunate to be led by the longest serving Gettysburg tour guide as we navigated our way through the historic battlefield.
Each evening we met in groups with students from other schools all over the United States, where we discussed the citizen’s role in government. One of the things Close Up strives to do is to have students from different states interact and learn from each other. Delia Asher, GCAA student, observed how students from other states are different than students in Missouri. One girl was amazed to see a robin, when we’re used to seeing them all the time. We shared our Close Up experience with students from California, Florida, Texas, Montana, New Mexico, and Louisiana.
Ms. Jagusch remarked, “It was exciting for me to see our 7th graders so engaged in our nation’s history, especially at Gettysburg. Walking in the place where such an important battle happened is incredibly powerful to understanding our history and our country today. It was also fun to hear about the students’ experiences with the mock congress and debating the issues that are being debated in the US Congress. Wait, you mean not everyone has the same opinions on issues like gun control and gay rights?! What an amazing overall experience!”
Washington D.C. is a place that every American needs to experience. There are many important things to learn and see. Learning about American government and history helps us to discover what it means to be an American citizen. Thanks to Close Up, many students have the opportunity to do just that. “I believe that each student got something out of the trip and learned the importance of their civic duties in American society,” said Mr. Frig. The students also felt they got a chance to be independent and take care of themselves. “I had a great time and I felt more on my own,” said Marissa Pineda, one of the students who went on the trip. We all had an great time in Washington D.C. and learned a lot. It was an amazing experience!
In conclusion, I’d like to give a shout out to Rhonda Holt who helped with fund-raising for this extraordinary trip.
By Magnolia Mulvihill