Mr. Grummert documents group's daily events in Washington, D.C.
Friday, March 23, 2018
At our final breakfast at the hotel this morning many students bid a heartfelt good bye to their new found friends from across the United States: Hawaii, Rhode Island, Minnesota, North Dakota, Maine, Illinois, Michigan, Arizona and many others.
With the Close Up program essentially over this Friday morning, Mr. Harris and I sent the kids out in pairs or groups to explore sites of their own choice throughout Washington D.C. Many students chose to visit Georgetown. Popular stops were D.C. Cupcake and Georgetown University. Some students headed back over to the White House, the Capitol, and the Library of Congress to explore those magnificent buildings. In addition to the many government lessons learned throughout the week, students also experienced life lessons and recognized that we truly live in a global society.
Thursday, March 22, 2018
Thursday was another busy day for the Close Up students. As a large group, the students traveled to Arlington National Cemetery, a United States military cemetery. There, they witnessed the ceremonial Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and saw Arlington House, the home of Robert E. Lee, the commander of the Confederate States Army during the Civil War.
Arlington National Cemetery, with view of Arlington House, home of General Robert E. Lee
Later, the group split into their study groups and traveled to different locations throughout Washington, D.C. to study neighborhood growth and development. A central focus of the groups was this question: “What citizen actions are necessary to foster and maintain a vibrant democracy?” Among the stops included DuPont Circle and U Street. U Street was once a center of African American culture in America and the birthplace of native son, jazz musician Duke Ellington. Students learned the history of their assigned neighborhood, including the fact that the intersection of 14th Street and U Street was the center of violence during the 1968 Washington, D.C. race riots after the death of Martin Luther King, Jr.
Shelby Griego and Shawna Walla on the campus of Georgetown University.
On Friday, our students will be allowed to travel in smaller groups throughout Washington D.C. before boarding their flight back to Wahoo. One group planned to head to Georgetown, while another group discussed going back to Trump International Hotel and riding the elevator to the top of the clock tower.
Mr. Harris and I strolled over to Old Post Office Pavilion, probably better known today for being the site of Trump International Hotel, to go up the tower of the building. The Old Post Office Pavilion tower is the second tallest structure in Washington D.C., second only to the Washington Monument. From the top of the tower one can get a great bird's-eye view of the city.
Views of the Washington Monument and the U.S. Capitol, both taken from the tower of the Old Post Office.
We then headed into Old Town Alexandria, grabbed a quick bite to eat, and walked up to the George Washington Masonic National Memorial. Mr. Harris and I were not really knowing what to expect at the Masonic Temple, but once inside, we were like two little kids in a candy store as we saw some impressive artifacts and architecture. Among the many things of note was a chair used by George Washington at Mt. Vernon, which is still used in the ceremony when one becomes a Master Mason. Other items of interest were George Washington's Bible, which contained George Washington's signature, a lock of Washington's hair, ceremonial trowel used by Washington for the laying of the Capitol cornerstone in 1793, the shackles used in the arrest of John Brown, and General Santa Anna's spurs. We had chance to go atop the Masonic Temple and get a great view of Alexandria and Washington D.C.! Today was another great day of historic finds!
George Washington Masonic National Memorial in Alexandria, VA.
Wednesday, March 21, 2018
Today was Capitol Hill day for all Close Up groups and the sponsors. Our day was to be spent meeting with Nebraska's congressional representatives, touring the various buildings on Capitol Hill and seeing the government up close. Unfortunately, Mother Nature had other ideas. A snow/sleet storm moved into Washington D.C. Tuesday night and caused the schools, universities and the federal government to shut down on Wednesday.
Capitol Hill Day was . . . wet!
The Wahoo High students woke up early and planned to head out at 6:00 a.m. for their White House tour. About ten minutes before departure, Mr. Grummert received an email stating that the tour had been cancelled. He reached out to the Nebraska congressional representatives and they were assured that, despite the shutdown, the meetings were still on as scheduled. He also learned that the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) was open and did not require advanced tickets. The newest of the Smithsonian museums, the NMAAHC is so popular that group tours have ceased being scheduled. So it was decided to head to the museum.
WHS Close Up students pose with Nebraska Senator Deb Fischer in the rotunda of the Russell Building.
After spending time at the museum, the students walked to the Russell Senate Building on Capitol Hill to meet with Senator Deb Fisher. After a brief meeting and a photo opportunity, the group proceeded to Senator Ben Sasse’s office. With Congress debating the latest spending bill, Senator Sasse was unavailable to meet with our students; however, a staff member from his office took the group on a quick tour of the Capitol Building. Of note on the tour was the Old Hall of the House, a large, two-story, semicircular room near the Capitol Rotunda. In this room, presidents James Madison, James Monroe, John Quincy Adams, Andrew Jackson and Millard Fillmore were inaugurated. Also, the group passed through the Capitol Rotunda and saw where 32 presidents and national leaders’ bodies have lied in state before their burials, the latest being the Rev. Billy Graham.
After supper at Union Station, all Close Up students boarded buses and headed to Ford’s Theater in Chinatown to watch a theatrical production of “The Wiz.” This musical is a retelling of L. Frank Baum's children's novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz in the context of modern African-American culture.
After a long and busy day, Wahoo High’s student group returned to the hotel to rest up for Thursday’s trip to Arlington National Cemetery.
Tuesday, March 20, 2018
The Air Force Memorial is located on the grounds of Fort Myer near The Pentagon, and next to Arlington National Cemetery, which the students will visit on Thursday. The design of the Air Force Memorial is meant to remind observers of the contrails from the Air Force Thunderbird squadron.
Above left: Students pose at the World War II Memorial. Above right: Abi Klein, Dan Dunn, and Anna Dobesh outside the Pentagon. It was raining/sleeting all morning. After that, students went to the Afghanistan Embassy and listened to an ambassador talk about his country. Below: A photo of the Air Force Memorial, designed to look like the contrails from the Thunderbird squadron.
Once the students returned to their hotel, they broke into session “committees” and discussed current political issues that ranged from increasing the national minimum wage to anti-discrimination laws. Once committees decided their position on their issue, a select number of student leaders from each committee brought their issue to the floor of the full session. To conclude the debate, the full session voted “yay” or “nay,” voicing their support or disapproval of a committee's position on that issue.
Despite the impending snow storm, the Close Up program will go on as scheduled Wednesday. The Wahoo students will begin their day bright and early with a White House tour at 7:30 a.m. Departure from the hotel will be at 6:00 a.m.
Today, Mr. Harris and I headed out to Charlottesville, Virginia, to explore the University of Virginia, which was designed by Thomas Jefferson. Fun fact - of all the accomplishments of Jefferson, on his grave he wanted to be remembered for the following three items: author of the Declaration of American Independence, author of the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, and Father of the University of Virginia.
Left: the Rotunda at the University of Virginia at Charlottesville. Right: the Learning Pavilions and student quarters at UVA.
Jefferson founded UVA as a public institution with no religious affiliation, a rather bold move for the time period. Jefferson was a strong believer that only well educated citizens could keep the experiment of democracy going. At the center of UVA is The Rotunda, which contained a library and classrooms, a reflection of Jefferson's strong belief in the power of education. It is truly an amazing campus with a great deal of history!
From UVA, we headed to Jefferson's home and plantation, Monticello. Monticello was designed by Jefferson, and modified by Jefferson as a result of his time in France and his own architectural research. The home contains beautiful art pieces, maps, fossils, technological innovations, and numerous original artifacts of Jefferson.
Monticello, home of Thomas Jefferson
Monticello and UVA are both awesome examples of the brilliance of Jefferson, but must also be counterbalanced with the story of slavery. The man who penned the famous words "all men are created equal" utilized slave labor to construct and run Monticello and UVA. It is important to recognize the legacy of slavery in these stories. In recognizing the overall significance of UVA and Monticello, both sites are listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
All in all, another fantastic day of learning more about the story of our country and about Jefferson!
Monday, March 19, 2018
Yesterday, Close Up students spent time studying at the Jefferson, FDR and MLK, Jr. Memorials. They also spent time with group leaders discussing current national issues such as the opioid crisis, college access and affordability and youth voting.
Close Up students posing at the Jefferson Memorial.
Mattie Pfeiffer said that it's so neat to see things that people all over the world dream about seeing. Emma Thrasher commented that she is enjoying talking with and listening to people who have different political views than her.
Above left: a spirited group strikes a pose on the National Mall, with the Washington Monument in the background. Right: Anna Dobesh stands with her Close Up program leader.
Monday morning for teachers began with breakfast and hearing from Kelsey Millay, who is part of the National Women's Party. She spoke of the history of the fight for women to gain suffrage and the role that the National Women's Party played in that struggle. She also discussed the upcoming centennial of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, which gave women in the U.S. the Constitutional right to vote.
After breakfast Mr. Harris and I jumped on a bus for Quantico, Virginia. There we had the chance to explore the National Museum of the Marine Corps. The Museum highlighted the history of the U.S. Marine Corps from the American Revolution through our most recent interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq. One unique item that we discovered there was some melted glass recovered from Nagasaki after the atomic bombing by the U.S. in 1945.
From the National Museum of the Marine Corps, we headed to Gunston Hall, the home of the somewhat forgotten Founding Father, George Mason. Mason drafted the Virginia Declaration of Rights, which was highly influential to Thomas Jefferson as he penned the Declaration of Independence. Furthermore, Mason’s document would be highly influential in the formation of the Constitution and Bill of Rights. Mason participated in the Constitutional Convention, but refused to sign the document which led to a falling out with his neighbor, George Washington. With the history lesson over, I must say, Mason’s estate and mansion were absolutely beautiful!
While students are in the Close Up program, Mr. Grummert and Mr. Harris have the opportunity to explore on their own. On Monday they visited the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Quantico, VA (upper left), where among many other things, they viewed a piece of melted glass from Nagasaki in 1945 (upper right). They also visited Gunston Hall (lower left and right), the home of Founding Father George Mason.
Sunday, March 18, 2018
Shoes taken from Jewish prisoners upon entry to a concentration camp. Housed at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.
We got a later start this morning, around 10:00 a.m., which allowed some tired kids to get a little extra rest after a long day on Saturday.
We started our day by taking the Metro to the National Mall, and from there we walked to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Students had the opportunity to learn first hand from some excellent artifacts, historical photos and film footage, and detailed descriptions about the horrors of the Holocaust. My students remarked that it was an eye-opening experience that everyone should see.
From the USHMM, we took a little stroll past The Trump International Hotel, located in the Old Post Office Pavilion, the U.S. Department of Justice, and the National Archives, on our way to the Newseum, a museum dedicated to the First Amendment. The students appreciated that fact that the Newseum is interactive and detailed many more current stories that they were familiar with.
From the Newseum we raced back to our hotel to grab our bags and head to the Crowne Plaza in Crystal City for the beginning of the Close Up program. Students got the chance to meet their new roommates, grab some dinner before getting the chance to participate in a domestic issue debate. The debate is lead by conservative D.C. insider Kris Ullman and liberal D.C. insider Frank Garvey.
Tomorrow morning students will get the chance to participate in study visits to multiple memorials on the National Mall.
An antenna from the top of the World Trade Center and a section of the Berlin Wall, both on display at the Newseum.
Saturday, March 17, 2018
Saturday morning started bright and early with a trip to the Waterfront to board a boat, the Spirit of Mt. Vernon, to go and see George Washington's beloved home and plantation, Mt. Vernon. We had a lazy hour-long boat ride down the Potomac River to get to Mt. Vernon, which the kids seemed to enjoy.
We then disembarked and hiked about a quarter of a mile up to the Mt. Vernon mansion, where the kids had the chance to see and experience George Washington's home. Students were then able to explore the rest of the property with their friends. We got back on the Spirit of Mt. Vernon for the boat ride back to the Waterfront. Once back on dry land, we headed to the National Mall, where kids were able to head off and see a Smithsonian museum of their choice. Many kids explored the American History, Air and Space, and the Natural History Museums.
Following our Smithsonian exploration, we headed to Pentagon City Fashion Centre for dinner and shopping. After our long day and, according to the kids, walking over seven miles, they eagerly anticipated getting back to the hotel to rest, relax, or jump in the pool.
Friday, March 16, 2018
Students pose in front of our nation's capitol during an evening tour of D.C.
An excited group of 30 students and two sponsors left Wahoo High School on Friday, March 16, 2018, en route to Washington D.C.
The juniors were on their way to our nation’s capital to participate in the 2018 Close Up program. After the direct flight from Omaha to Reagan National Airport, the group checked in at their hotel, and many noted that a recurring theme for the week would be “walking." They quickly understood the reason their teachers insisted that each student pack a pair of comfortable walking shoes.
Students walked from the airport to the city’s public transit system, the Metro. They walked from the hotel to the grocery store to gather snacks and supplies for the week. They walked to find some supper. That night, the students and sponsors hopped onto a tour bus for a night trip around the city. The bus stopped at such sights as Capitol Hill, the White House, the WWII, Lincoln, Jefferson, Martin Luther King Jr., Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Korean Memorials. Many students captured and posted pictures and cell phone videos of the beautifully lit sites. After a long day and night, the students and sponsors headed back to hotel to rest up for the next day, a water trip down the Potomac River to George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate.
Mr. Grummert chronicles students' daily activities in Washington, D.C.
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