MIAMI — Ten eighth grade students from Will Rogers Middle School went on the trip of a lifetime to learn about the history of the Revolutionary War and the founding of the United States.
The field trip to Colonial Williamsburg takes 10 eighth grade WRMS students a year to the east coast to visit monuments, museums, war sites and presidential birthplaces.
WRMS principal Justin Chase went along with the children as their sponsor for the trip. Chase said the students are picked through a gratuitous application process.
“All of the eighth graders write an essay about why they want to go to Washington D.C. or Colonial Williamsburg,” Chase said. “Our social studies teachers look at the essay, and we tie it to our eighth grade writing test. We use this essay as a precursor to the writing test they’ll take in February. It’s a five paragraph essay, and the teachers look for the students who can communicate the best.
“The teachers will pick 30 essays that are good and gives the essays to the secretary who looks up their attendance, discipline and grades. We narrow it down to 20, and we have an interview with each one of them. In the interview, we have a counselor, assistant principal and a woman who has worked with the trip for many years. They’re trying to determine who really wants to go on the trip. Then, we narrow it down to 10 kids.”
The ten students that were picked traveled along the east coast for nine days.
“We left on Dec. 4 and arrived back on Dec. 13,” Chase said. “We took off on a Friday afternoon at 4:30 p.m. and arrived Sunday at 4 p.m.”
WRMS has been participating in the trip for the past eight years. The eighth graders meet 170 other eighth grade students from schools in a multi-state region.
“We visited Williamsburg, Jamestown, Yorktown, Gettysburg and Washington, D.C.,” Chase said. “The whole purpose is to highlight the Revolutionary War and the founding of our country, the Declaration of Independence and we end at Gettysburg, which is the only Civil War sight we see on the trip. It’s a long trip and the purpose is for the kids to experience a real history lesson.”
Chase said the students are loaded on buses and stay the night in hotels. The students bunk with students from other schools in order to meet new people. The trip is expense free for the students.
The students began their journey through history at Williamsburg, Virginia, to learn about the American Revolution.
“We did go to Jamestown and Yorktown,” Chase said. “We spent a full day in Colonial Williamsburg, which is a lot of fun.”
After Williamsburg, the students travel to Washington D.C.
“We also go to Washington D.C. for a couple of days,” Chase said. “We hit some of the highlights, like the Lincoln Memorial, the White House, the Capitol and the war monuments. The kids will tell you that the Lincoln was one of their favorites. It’s absolutely enormous. We saw the monuments at night, and there’s something extra special at night. It’s quite a sight.”
Chase said while they were in Washington, they saw President Barack Obama’s motorcade.
“That was a lot of fun to see that because they stopped traffic and cleared everyone out,” Chase said. “The day we were there, it was ironic because Obama went from the White House to the Capitol building to sign the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), a significant education bill.”
The group then traveled to Fort McHenry where the Star Spangled Banner was written by Francis Scott Key
“They got to participate in a flag raising,” Chase said. “At the fort, they rarely fly this flag because it’s usually too windy. The flag pole is actually an old ship’s mast, so if it’s too windy, it will break. The day we were there, it was perfect. Normally, Fort McHenry is the coldest part of the trip because it’s located at a port in Baltimore where the wind blows off the water. We got to look around a lot of places we haven't in the past because it was so warm.”
After leaving Fort McHenry, the group traveled to Philadelphia to see the Liberty Bell and end at Gettysburg.
The top three favorite locations of the students were the Lincoln Memorial, Fort McHenry and Mount Vernon.
WRMS student Paola Gonzalez, 13, thought the trip was fun and was happy to be picked.
“It was really cool seeing Thomas Jefferson’s house and George Washington’s house,” Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez said the Lincoln Memorial was her favorite part of the trip.
“I’ve seen it in movies and stuff but never in person,” Gonzalez said. “I thought the White House was going to be bigger, but it was cool seeing the snipers on the roof.”
Joe Lilliard, 13, also attended the Colonial Williamsburg trip and wrote about specific places in his essay to be accepted.
“I wrote about Gettysburg and Fort McHenry,” Lilliard said. “I also wrote about to see where our government is run today and to see where it was ran hundreds of years ago. History is one of my favorite subjects.”
Lilliard said he learned about the first main capital of Virginia and the history of Philadelphia.
“I learned all about Fort McHenry and the bombardments of 1814 and how that stopped the British from taking control of Baltimore,” Lilliard said. “I learned a lot about Gettysburg, which I didn’t know much about. It amazed me how big the battlefield was and what happened with the changes in land.”
Chase said the trip is very beneficial to the students because they experience real world learning rather than reading about it in a textbook.