In May, Evelyn Graham ’23 and her classmates embarked on the pinnacle experience of their 8th grade year—the week-long trip to Washington, D.C. Graham shares her favorite moments from the trip, and how it impacted her understanding of our country. By Evelyn Graham 23.
Every year, the 8th grade class has the incredible opportunity to take a week-long trip to
Washington, D.C. My classmates and I had been eagerly waiting for this exclamation point of our Middle School years. Listening to older siblings rant and rave about their fabulous experiences on the trip, I was beyond excited to experience it for myself.
The preparation began in 7th grade with the annual flower sale, in which 7th grade students sell flowers and gift certificates to raise money to help pay for their trip. Some students are able to pay for their entire trip from the flower sale! Then, throughout our 8th grade year, we dive deeply into America’s history. From the beginning of the original colonies to the American Civil Rights Movement, we learn about the important moments, speeches, marches, and battles that have shaped our country into what it is today.
Having this background information made a world of difference when we visited the famous memorials, museums, and buildings that are so important to our country’s history. For example, we visited Mount Vernon, George Washington’s beautiful mansion in Virginia, knowing all about Washington’s life—from his time serving as a general in the Army to becoming the first president of the United States. Being in his mansion, I was able to envision him walking through the house and living his life. The experience helped me truly understand how and why he loved the house and grounds; from the multiple immaculate gardens to the spectacular halls where he and his family walked. Having the unforgettable chance to visit and tour the house gave me a whole new perspective and helped further my knowledge and education on his impressive life.
The sojourn to our nation’s capital put all of the knowledge that we had been given from our American Studies class into real life. It is one thing to read about the Constitution, but it is a whole other experience to see the actual signed Constitution right before your eyes. It is completely different to read about the Capitol and the events that occurred in it on your computer than it is to actually be inside of it, learning about it while walking its halls.
All of the places we visited—the Lincoln Memorial, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the National Museum of African American History & Culture, the World War II Memorial, to name a few—were very impactful. But the one that stood out the most to me was the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. It took my breath away from the moment I entered. Throughout the trip we had gone to many different museums, but not once did my classmates and I react to a museum like this. Everyone was completely silent as we walked through and observed the sadness surrounding the museum memorial, which was beautifully thought out and packed with information, pictures, and videos about the horrific atrocities that occurred during the Holocaust. I learned so much by being able to see pictures and hear from victims. It is impossible to put into words what it was like to walk around the museum, but it’s something that I will simply never forget. It will always stand out in my mind when I think back on this trip.
Our trip was a time for the entire 8th grade class to bond through unforgettable moments and experiences that we will carry through our time in Upper School, as well as for the rest of our lives. I am sure that I speak for the whole grade when I say that the trip is an experience of a lifetime that I will never forget.
Thank you so much to Mr. Taft, Mrs. Eppelshiemer, the 8th grade team, all of the chaperones, parents, and faculty that made this amazing trip possible for the class of 2023 and the many trips to come!