“The monuments and memorials are bigger than I expected,” Waldron said. “But it makes sense. These buildings are dedicated to people who were so important to our history, and it’s important for us to keep that memory. Lincoln’s memorial was my favorite, and I saw that he continues to watch over the country from the National Mall.”
That was the impression Kline was going for when he decided to invite students to tour national and historic sites in Washington, D.C., that our nation’s history is huge and compelling, and as students and citizens we should get as close to our history as we can.
“This trip was planned to explore the curriculum of US History,” Kline said. “From the actual historic documents that frame our government, to the memorial and monuments, the trip gave students the opportunity to really visit with our history and bring back a new relationship with that history.”
“Two themes kept coming up in our conversations as we visited historic sites,” Kline said. “We talked about the duty we have as citizens to remember our history, especially to remember those who served and sacrificed. And that led us to talking about the price of freedom. What does it cost for us to live in a country that’s free?”
Though the trip was a return visit to D.C. for Ashley Cairns, she found this trip was different, because this time she went as a student, instead of as a tourist.
“This trip was more educational than just for fun,” she said. “Even though it was fun, I was there as a student because I was learning about the history of the memorials, their symbolism, and how that was significant.”
At the monument to Martin Luther King, Jr., she noticed the expression on the face of the civil rights leader, now cast in stone.
“The look on his face stood out to me. I couldn’t decide if he was showing how happy he would be with how far we’ve come (since 1968), or if he would still be waiting to see change. But his figure is carved into a mountain of hope, and I thought that was important.”
Moments can make a lasting impression and even lead to more learning. For sophomore Devon Gildea it happened at Arlington Cemetery.
“My favorite thing of all was our visit to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington Cemetery,” Gildea said. “I like the fact they have a guard there twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. The fact that we honor the soldiers who fought for us who we don’t even know is inspiring. It makes me want to learn more about what happened in those wars.”
For junior Michaela Scholte the next leg of the journey begins back home in Gobles as she thinks about her roles and responsibilities as a citizen. In her life and daily actions, history will touch the future.
“At the end of each day we would get together and reflect on what we saw,” Scholte said. “Since we visited so many war memorials we would see the word Freedom everywhere. We ended up talking about freedom a lot. Honestly freedom is something I have taken for granted in the past. I didn’t really have to think about it. But now thinking about freedom has to be part of the way I live my life. I will be old enough to vote next year. I have to know what I’m voting for; if people died to give me that opportunity, I have to do my part in our Democracy.”