NRHEG students enjoy trip of a lifetime to Washington, D.C.
SOLEMN CEREMONY — Above, checking out the laying of the wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier are, from left, NRHEG students Taylar Tieskotter, Abby Christopherson and Michael Altermatt (holding camera). Below, NRHEG students helping in the rain with the laying of the wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier are, from left, Sam Morgan, Spencer Tollefson, Presley Johnson and Katharine Lewer. (Photos by Georgia Dinneen)
By JESSICA LUTGENS
What better way is there to learn about the history of our country than to visit its more-than-two-century-old Capitol? One can practically see the ghosts of generations past throughout the city, as if stepping back in time. Walking the streets and halls that once held some of the most powerful and influential people in the world, the people who created the country we live in today – no textbook can compare.
NRHEG students had the opportunity to witness all of this themselves in a recent four-day, three-night trip to Washington, D.C.
Since 2004, around 300 students, along with chaperones, have visited the city. Georgia Dinneen, Business Education/Keyboarding teacher at NRHEG High School, has contributed countless hours planning the trip each year, managing to pack over a week’s worth of sightseeing in four days. The trip has been very well received, enabling the school to continue providing this educational adventure to its students through the years.
We sat down with four students who attended this year’s trip, and Michael Altermatt summed up what everyone was thinking: “It was a lot of fun.”
Almost every memorial, museum, and historical building you can think of was on the itinerary, and the kids genuinely enjoyed touring them, which was obvious as they fondly recalled memories from the trip.
“It wasn’t like a history book,” said Anna Stork. “It was really interesting.”
The museums were a big hit; filled with interactive exhibits, students were allowed to go on their own and view what interested them. The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, American History/Natural History Museum, Holocaust Museum, and Newseum were just a few on the itinerary, but the International Spy Museum really made an impression – available to examine were more than 200 spy gadgets, weapons, bugs, cameras, vehicles, etc., and much, much more.
“The items have been used by real spies,” explained Dinneen. “There are more spies in D.C. than anywhere in the world.”
“It was so cool,” commented Colton Hagen, “You would look around and be like – who’s a spy here?”
The museum featured a special exhibit commemorating the 50th anniversary of the James Bond films, which included over 100 real items from the movies, including airships, underground lairs, nuclear weapons, and more. The exhibit, “Exquisitely Evil: 50 years of Bond Villains,” introduces you to the villains in the Bond movies and interactively “explores how the evildoers and their plots have changed…and how James Bond has influenced the public’s perception of real espionage,” according to the museum’s website.
There was a minor delay on the way to the Air and Space Museum; it was shut down at first due to a suspicious package.
“There were canine units,” Hagen said. “But I asked, and they told me it would be opened in a couple minutes.”
The museum, the most visited museum in the country, offers an abundance of information in its exhibits, which include several real aircrafts to explore, moon rock, rockets and missiles, and much more.
The Newseum and Holocaust museums also contained boundless information. The former, a seven-level, 250,000 square-foot-museum, is interactive, full of news and journalism and features 15 theaters, 14 galleries, and contains sections of the Berlin Wall from Germany, among others. The latter is the United States’ official memorial to the Holocaust and contains collections of more than 12,750 artifacts, 49 million pages of archival documents, 80,000 historical photographs, 200,000 registered survivors, 1,000 hours of archival footage, 84,000 library items, and 9,000 oral history testimonies; nearly 30 million people have visited, including more than 8 million school children.
National Monuments and buildings were led by a tour guide; the same person who has worked with the school in every previous D.C. trip.
“She told me that she has turned away schools’ requests to hire her,” Dinneen said. “But she would never say no to NRHEG, and that the kids are always well-behaved and respectful.”
“She was so smart,” remarked Jessica Nafe. “She knew so many little details about everything. Everything had meaning.”
“She really knows how to relate to high school kids,” Dinneen added with a smile.
They toured many famous locations, including Arlington Cemetery and the FDR, Lincoln, Jefferson, WWII, MLK, Pentagon and Iwo Jima Memorials, and historic buildings such as the U.S. Capitol, Ford’s Theater (where Abraham Lincoln was shot), Peterson House (location of Lincoln’s death), the Pentagon, Library of Congress, and the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. They ate at the Hard Rock Café and Union Station, and stopped for pictures in front of the White House.
“What was really cool was at the Lincoln Memorial, there was a square carved in the ground where Martin Luther King Jr. made his [‘I Have A Dream’] speech,” recalled Stork.
At Arlington, they watched the changing of the guards, and four randomly selected students — Katharine Lewer, Presley Johnson, Sam Morgan and Spencer Tollefson — participated in the wreath laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
They also enjoyed two comedy shows: an improvisational show at Comedy Sportz DC, and “Shear Madness” at the Kennedy Center, which lets the audience participate in helping solve a crime.
The city’s landscape was fondly remembered, as well, from the skyline on the terrace of the Kennedy Center to the lights of the WWII Memorial at night.
“Going there, you feel grateful, more patriotic. It was a really good experience,” Dinneen said. “The kids are always well-behaved, which I attribute to the parents and the kids.”
“It was like a vacation with friends, which made it more fun,” said Hagen.
Dinneen added that she is grateful for things going smoothly each year; they’ve never lost anyone, and nobody’s gotten hurt or sick. They may try to plan a trip for next year, and then alternate years, in order to allow more students to participate, as this year’s D.C. trip conflicted with the band trip.
The 2014 Washington, D.C. trip was once again enjoyed by many, and provided excellent learning opportunities, as well as memories that will last a lifetime.