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By Deb Freitag
New Glarus Middle School Teacher 

A Summer Vacation Highlight


July 12, 2018

A group of 41 New Glarus students and staff members recently returned from Washington, D.C. During our four educational, but fun-filled days, we had a chance to explore many interesting places in and around our nation's amazing capital city! Here is a summary of each day's main features: We pulled out of the New Glarus Middle School parking lot at 3:58 a.m. (two minutes ahead of schedule, which rarely happens with a group this size and was a great omen for the trip ahead). For some kids, this was their very first time flying, so the exuberant cheer as the plane lifted-off the ground brought smiles to the other passengers and crew! Upon arriving in D.C., we started on the National Mall exploring some of the Smithsonian Museums, then had a guided tour of the National Cathedral. Students especially enjoyed hearing stories about the meaning behind various stained-glass windows, including the one with a piece of actual moon rock in it. From there, we got to witness both Great and Red Pandas at the National Zoo, eat a delicious Italian dinner at Buca di Beppo, and close our day by visiting three historic and meaningful memorials honoring our Vietnam veterans, the Korean War, and President Abraham Lincoln.

Day two began with a visit to George Washington's estate and gardens in Mount Vernon. What a cool feeling to be standing in the home where our nation's first president lived! The view out over the Potomac River was very scenic, and a man dressed in 18th Century garb - playing a flute and drum - even did a fun rendition of "On Wisconsin" to welcome us. From there we were off to see several more memorials, and Rick (our wonderful tour guide from Brightspark) did a fantastic job helping us understand all the symbolism and meaning behind every site we visited: the Air Force, Pentagon, MLK, FDR, and Jefferson Memorials. Next we solemnly walked through one of the saddest stops of our trip, the Holocaust Museum, each picking up an ID card on our way in, finding out if the real person in our booklet lived or died under the Nazi regime. After a music-inspired dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe, we ventured down the cobblestone streets and alleys of the old, renowned town of Alexandria for a unique "Ghosts & Graveyard Tour."

Although we had already packed a week's worth of activity into our first two days, we were actually only halfway through our trip! Day three kicked-off with a somber (and incredibly hot) visit to Arlington National Cemetery. This year, four New Glarus students even wrote essays to earn the special privilege of laying a wreath at the "Tomb of the Unknowns," and these young ladies did a wonderful job representing the respect and reverence we owe to all the brave soldiers who have fallen in battle! While there, several students also began handing out their handwritten letters of gratitude to veterans and active military members we met, followed by a brief visit to the National Archives to see the original, founding documents of our free nation. After a rather dry presentation learning about Lincoln's assassination at Ford's Theatre and a quick photo opp in front of the White House, we enjoyed a fabulous meal yet again, this time at King Street Blues. Next, we attended "Twilight Tattoo" at Fort Myer Army Base. This live-action, military pageant featured soldiers from the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment and the U.S. Army Band, providing us a glimpse into American history through their performances. This was a first-time event for every member of our group, and one that we all greatly enjoyed! Our evening ended with a walk through the World War II Memorial, glowing impressively through the darkness and flanked by the Washington and Lincoln Memorials on both sides.

Our final day commenced with a group picture in front of the US Capitol, followed by a brief meeting with Representative Mark Pocan, before our tour through the beautiful rotunda and Statuary Hall of the U.S. Capitol. Union Station was a fun place to eat lunch, and then we were dropped off by our fantastic bus driver, Mr. Frances, for the final museum of our busy trip - the "Newseum." This provided a wonderful perspective for us about the history of where our news comes from, the impact photojournalism has on the way we view our world, and the men and women who risk (and sometimes lose) their lives to bring us stories that need to be heard! From there, we boarded the plane for a smooth ride back to Milwaukee and our families patiently waiting to hear all our stories!

Thanks to the parents and school district for allowing us this awesome, first-hand opportunity to explore and learn together!


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