The 8th grade class from Westminster Academy recently returned from a week-long trip to Virginia and Washington D.C. The class trip was added to the curriculum this year, and takes place at the culmination of the students’ study of American History and Civics.

“This trip has been a long time in the making,” said Faith Shaunak, Upper School history teacher and coordinator of the trip. “When planning the trip, we felt like 8th grade made sense for a number of reasons. The students have studied American History in 5th and 6th grade, and Civics in 7th grade. And D.C. is the ultimate Civics field trip,” Shaunak points out. “On the trip, the students saw local history, national history, and [hopefully] religious history coming together. We discussed how they can be citizens at different levels.”

Among the sites visited on the trip were Yorktown and Jamestown, The Supreme Court, Arlington Cemetery, The Museum of the Bible, and many historic war memorials throughout D.C. Students also spent one morning of the trip visiting with Congressman David Kustoff, and they were able to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

6th grade teacher and trip chaperone Kristen Gibson said “The student responses were great! It was interesting to see the change in the students before and after the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. On the way, they were respectful but playful. Afterwards they were silent. I think they were truly impacted by what they saw.”

Shaunak added, “Hands on experiences are meaningful to all ages, but by 8th grade, the students are truly mature enough to appreciate what they’re seeing and experiencing. It will be something tangible for them to draw back on when they circle back to studying US history again in the upper grades. I am hoping and praying that this hands-on experience has truly had an impact on their learning”.

It seems the impact was meaningful and immediate. Below are a few selections from some of the students’ reflection journals they turned in at the end of the trip:
• “I always knew people died for me, but I didn’t realize they were people. I didn’t think about them being someone’s son or father or husband. Now I know.”
• “I learned the importance of God and the church’s presence in Colonial life. America wouldn’t be the same without the early settlers’ religious goals.”
• “I learned more about why we study the past – that we might learn from it, have endurance, and have hope.”
• “It is inspiring that George Washington used prayer and thoughtful planning to repel the most capable army in the world.”
• “At the Air and Space Museum I found it inspiring that people went to unknown realms and risked their life so we could learn about creation.”

We are so excited to be able to add this trip to our 8th grade curriculum and look forward to next year!