Eighth Grade Students Immersed in American History

By: Melissa Coughlin, History Teacher

October 15-21, SCCS eighth grade students embarked on a tour that immersed them in American history.  They traveled to Colonial Williamsburg, Washington D.C., Gettysburg, and Philadelphia, learning at each stop various aspects of our history.  The theme of “gratitude” was so clearly defined throughout the week that the students came home more thankful for God’s hand in the shaping of our nation and for the people who prayerfully set it up and defended it through the years.  

Some highlights of our trip included visiting Jamestown Settlement and Colonial Williamsburg to study the origins of America.  Students boarded the ship the “Susan Constant” in Jamestown to see what colonists went through just to travel to America.  In Williamsburg, students participated in a trial of a local citizen (their teacher, Mrs. Coughlin) and convicted her!  Thankfully, she was pardoned by the governor.  They toured the town and saw how 18th century merchants applied their crafts; they also attended an African American Music Presentation that depicted life for the slaves and how music was integral to it.

WashingtonWashington D.C. is a historical goldmine.  Students had the honor of laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.  It was a moving ceremony that they will not soon forget.  They also visited the buildings of all three branches of government, including receiving an invitation from our U.S. Representative, Steve Knight, to visit the Gallery of the House of Representatives!  Students visited many monuments: George Washington’s home, Mt. Vernon; Smithsonian museums; and even went on a walking tour called Investigation McDevitt that followed John Wilkes Booth and his conspirators the night President Lincoln was shot. Our visit to Washington D.C. was truly unforgettable.

The next leg of the tour brought us to the Gettysburg battlefield in Pennsylvania.  Students were treated to a film and Cyclorama of Pickett’s Charge.  This painting in the round was made in the 1800s and was filled with realistic scenes of the battle that day.  Next, we boarded our bus for a two-hour tour of the battlefield.  We were privileged to have Fred Wieners as our tour guide.  He was a career military man who also served on the faculty at the International War College.   His knowledge of battlefield tactics mingled with stories of the character of the soldiers was a treat, and our SCCS students made such an impression on him that he asked us to request him for next year – something he rarely does!  We concluded our time at Gettysburg by visiting the Union Soldiers’ Cemetery where Abraham Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address.  Students analyzed this poignant speech and recited it in the same spot Lincoln did!  The video is now being considered by Ken Burns’ website to be displayed there.  The cemetery was such a meaningful place that students paused there in small groups to discuss what the Civil War meant and how it still affects our country today.  They thanked God for the painful parts of our history as times of growth and hopefully healing.

Finally, our students rounded out the U.S. History tour with a visit to Philadelphia.  They visited Independence Hall and also got to see one of the surviving first printed copies of the Declaration of Independence, along with a rough draft of the Articles of Confederation.  They also took a tour of Congress Hall, our U.S. Capitol building before it moved to Washington D.C.  Students then saw the Liberty Bell, Christ Church, and Benjamin Franklin’s grave.  Of course, no trip to Philadelphia would be complete without trying their famous cheesesteaks, so we walked over to Sonny’s Famous Steaks for an awesome lunch.  

If you think we only had learning experiences without any time for free time fun, then you’d be wrong!  Students had a glow-in-the-dark party at Yards Park in D.C. complete with a nighttime game of Capture the Flag.  They also went to a giant corn maze and swam in an indoor pool in Pennsylvania!  There were impromptu bus karaoke nights and cheering for the Dodgers wherever we went!  Friendships were forged and fostered, and it was truly a great time.

As stated earlier, the theme of this year’s US History Tour was “gratitude,” and I think I speak for all our travelers, when I say we have returned grateful to God for allowing such an amazing country to be created with leaders of character who set out to limit government’s power, rather than extend it.  We are also thankful to those who have defended our freedoms throughout our history.  We demonstrated our gratitude symbolically by laying the wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and taking time to personally thank soldiers at our hotel near the Pentagon.  One of our students even shook the hand of a U.S. Navy admiral, thanking him for his service!  Finally, we are thankful that our school values school tours like this, so students can see our history first hand and be truly proud to be Americans.

Please note: There will be a US History trip information meeting on January 23, 2018 at 6:30 pm in the Resource Center for current, 7th grade families who are interested in attending the US History trip in the fall of 2018. We hope to see you there!