What an amazing, jam-packed day! Unlimited Bike Tours met us at the hotel at 9am and off we went to explore the city. Picture city biking, a line of 24 kids and 5 adults led by two retired DC volunteers, single file, stopping at red lights, staying in the bike lane and gazing at buildings on both sides while they go. The kids did a great job, had a lot of fun (much better than walking) and this was the ideal way to see downtown. We stopped by the White House, Supreme Court, Capitol, DDE Memorial, the Washington Monument and then over the bridge to the Jefferson Memorial. At the Capitol, Senator Bennet was nice enough to send his Education Director because he was out of town. She was impressed with the students, the questions, and stayed to listen to a few speeches. We took a picture that Bennet will see, and guessing he will comment on. Zeke, once again, commented on what a good job the kids did with their topics, thesis statements and confident presentations. I want to quickly share a memorable moment. Emma bought a few bags of sour patch kids candies, and before her speech she asked the grown ups to pass out 3 pieces to the boys and then the girls could have an unlimited amount. There were questions and confusion, and then she started with her women's rights and suffrage speech, sharing unequal pay and gender inequities that she wanted people to know and ones she looks to address as she gets older. She used the candies as a real example, and asked what it was like for the girls to get more than the boys. We also had Blythe talk about RBG and her prominence on the Court, Daane asking the class to think about Thomas Jefferson as a Founding Father who also owned slaves and whether he should be considered a hero, Marley questioning whether DC is indeed a great city and Amelia talking about the Supreme Court and how it works, highlighting Tinker v Des Moines. At noon we returned our bikes and walked about a mile to the mall where each kid got money to spend however they wanted at a line of food trucks. It was the perfect DC lunch, and together the kids gathered on the grass in good spirits and as an inclusive group. The afternoon started with a 1:30pm reservation at the Holocaust Museum. We split into groups of six, but once we entered, it was just everyone on their own focused and serious, moving at their own pace. Everyone had their journals, and I noticed as we started one of the kids titling their first page with, "The Holocaust was the systemic, state-sponsored, persecution of 6 million Jews by the Nazi regime and its collaborators." The student looked over at me and said, "Oh my God." I knew this was going to be a heavy and powerful few hours. You will see posts from the outing, and as we put pictures together we will share them more broadly, and I am not trying to give a history lesson in this blog more about the experience. But, the kids were moved to write pages and pages in their journals, citing quotes, asking questions and reflecting. There were poignant questions and even a couple tears (adults and kids). I will leave you with a quote from Elie Wiesel, "Never Shall I Forget That Night, The First Night In Camp, Which Has Turned My Life Into One Long Night, Seven Times Cursed, And Seven Times Sealed. Never Shall I forget That Smoke. Never Shall I forget The Little Faces Of The Children, Whose Bodies I saw Turned Into Wreaths Of Smoke Beneath A Silent Blue Sky." We left the museum and headed to the hotel. A quick change into our evening garb, and we walked to the Metro and went to Chinatown for dinner. We sat at three tables of 10 at a DC classic before walking to the Caps v Flyers. The kids were struck with the different parts of the city, and at every turn were appreciative, polite, enthusiastic and just fun to be with. The game was a huge hit, highlighted by a Caps win but also a group photo on the jumbotron (I had challenged them when we sat down to get themselves noticed, and they came through). Truth is, the kids have come through with whatever we have asked. An FYI, Tomorrow will look differently than planned. Carson has been asking, as have others, about the Air and Space Museum for the last few days. Zeke said that he should poll the class and collect signatures to see if that was the sense of the group. He presented the list at lunch, and we presented the new plan. The museum opens at 10am, and we don't have to leave for DCA until 2:30pm (we will fit lunch in somewhere). Once again, we have a tight connection, so keep your fingers crossed though we are planning to check luggage all the way through. I will miss you at ASE, as the kids fly West, I am flying East for the Loomis v Hotchkiss football game. It has been a memorable week, one Zeke, Morgan and I have really enjoyed. Thank you for your trust and support!
The perfect dichotomy of a day. Hands on service project on the eastern shore followed by a bus ride to DC where we visited the African American Museum, had dinner at the immigrant food restaurant, saw the White House, visited a gift shop and returned to the hotel where we ended our day with 20 minutes of journal writing and instructions for tomorrow. The Eastern shore was a great addition to the week. New for us, the weather was magnificent and the kids were in the water, hard at work and able to experience a part of the country many will never revisit. It was a real taste of environmental science, and the kids loved it.
The project consisted of making these refalls out of concrete. Each pair of students constructed their own (their contribution to restoration of the bay), which will go into the bay. They are basically a hard surface for oyster spat (baby oysters) to attach to. These are a safe haven for eel and crabs who hide in their habitat and are protected from predators. They also protect the shoreline from erosion, a real issue for the Chesapeake Bay. Did you know that Oysters filter the water in the bay, 50 gallons a day for one oyster? We mostly know oysters on the half shell at Clark’s, today gave us all a new meaning and perspective. And then we were back blasting music in the vans heading out route 50 to DC. I am delighted that we got tickets for the African American museum. Not an easy ticket to get, we split up into groups of six and with journals in hand made our way through the four floors of this architectural masterpiece. The kids jotted down quotes, shared things that moved them and reflected all afternoon on what they saw. If you are in DC, you need to visit this museum. Though we had lunch and snacks in the van, hunger set in, so we visited CVS across from the hotel. Yes, there are chips, cookies and a little candy being consumed, but the kids were great and earned it. We talked about being responsible and independent, and this treat for them is also fun and a "healthy" way for them to come together. Dinner was a more adventurous menu than normal for all of us, celebrating immigrants from all over the world. The kids loved the combo of spices, meats, pairings and drinks (kids’ versions). Off we went to the White House where we heard a few more speeches, the weather was perfect and there was not a complaint with the walking or really with anything. The kids’ thesis statements have been strong and their presenting impressive. Tonight we heard about 911, President Obama, Kamala Harris, and racism within the country. Thank you to Zeke for continuing this DC trip of students presenting research papers throughout the city. Our last stop was the gift shop on Pennsylvania Ave, and I loved overhearing, “what should I get my mom or brother/sister, and even dad?” We have a good group of kids, and everything is going well. Tomorrow starts with biking, and it is perhaps our busiest day and night starting at 8am with buffet breakfast.
8am breakfast was a bit early for those who are still on Mountain time, but everyone was on time, packed and ready to go. We all ate well, waffles, sausage, cereal, yogurt, juice and even some hot chocolate. What we adults were impressed with were the kids' manners, independence, enthusiasm and inclusive behavior. It was a good way to start the day, and they are coming together as a group. Before heading out, we gathered in a circle to discuss an exercise we conducted last night where we asked the kids to jot down any fears they might have, and we also wanted to hear their goals (both were done anonymously). Fears consisted of getting lost, messing up their speech, insects, not being able to sleep, not being included in the group and forgetting/losing their stuff. It was important for the group to hear that these were fears of someone in the group, and we talked about how we can come together to help if need be. The goals included, have fun, get out of your comfort zone/trying something new, build better friendships, keep an open mind, and learn new things. What a good, and honest, list.
At 9am we left for the Chesapeake Environmental Center. There we met the volunteers we would be working with and we started to get wet and dirty. We walked through the marshes and engaged in seining, which is dragging a large tarp through the water and catching anything in its midst. We caught jellyfish, crabs, a few fish (anchovy-like) and sadly a couple pieces of garbage. Today was clearly our environmental science today, and I so wish Megan could have been here with us. The kids referred back to her 6th grade class, impressing many of the volunteers. We spoke at length about conservation, habitat, restoration, ecosystems and wildlife. A quote that resonated with the kids, "habitat today, fish tomorrow."
We broke for lunch and then all walked down through the marsh to an inlet where we all took out kayaks and paddled for over an hour. The kids were in pairs, some comfortable with the outing and others who pushed themselves (even powered through a blister or 2). It was a great day out on the bay. We were the only ones out there, no boats or other groups, nobody. As we made our way back to the shoreline, the kids started to ask about swimming...Water was just warm enough, they had just enough energy, and all of a sudden the kids were all in the water. It was now about 4pm, and we made our way back to the Pecometh Center. I have to admit that we stopped and got ice cream (I said that I would buy ice cream if every kid went in the water), and the best part was that every kid used please and thank you. Back in the van, we blasted music from Kenny Chesney to Justin Bieber, Taylor Swift and Macklemore.
Dinner was a healthy BBQ chicken, mashed potatoes and green beans and kids sat with friends chatting away. Afterwards, we did a few WLS activities, bringing the group together, where they led us through a learning session and we explored how our personalities complement each other and how we are better as a team when we can understand and appreciate one another. Our WLS friends have been terrific and are really part of the group. Kids are just now coming in from running around and goofing around outside. They have turned on a movie, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs (young at heart). I will give them a little, they have earned it. We will be up and at 'em for 8am breakfast tomorrow and will head to the city after a quick stop back at the bay for a service project. Another fun and rewarding day!
Everyone slept well! Breakfast buffet at the hotel with a quick stop a few doors down at Joe & the Juice and Starbucks. We packed up our bags, leaving our day packs to bring on the van. The day trip over the Bay Bridge into MD provided amazing views and some good bonding time with friends and classmates.
The drive led us to Cambridge, MD where we stopped at the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitor Center. A couple quotes that the kids saw at the museum and shared that were moving to them: "I used to sleep on the floor and cry and cry...If I could only get home and get in my mother's bed." "Every time I saw a white man I was afraid of being carried away." "I grew up like a neglected weed - ignorant of liberty having no experience of it. Then I was not happy or contented."
It was here we met two impressive and eloquent locals, Dion and Kisha who shared their own life stories, and gave us a walking tour of Cambridge and gave us first-hand knowledge of the significance of the moment. We started the tour right off the water where slaves were taken off the boat and sold as property. It was a moving moment, and the kids were inquisitive and thoughtful with the experience.
After the tour, we got in our vans, blasted music and made our way to the Pecometh Center. What a contrast from 15th and K; tonight is out in the country. We had a home cooked, cafeteria style dinner of fajitas, salad and ice cream sandwiches. After dinner we collected our journals from our rooms, and Zeke led a powerful discussion about the day and gave the kids three prompts to choose from: "When have I been out of my comfort zone; I used to think, now I think; Choose a quote that you wrote down and reflect on it." The kids sat quietly and wrote for 20 minutes in their journals. After a long day, we were all impressed with their focus, patience, good work and vulnerability.
Lastly, World Leadership School led us in a few community-type games that were intentional and with purpose. Then we had some free time, kids played charades, and we delivered their marching orders for tomorrow. We get going at 8am tomorrow with another fun day, which includes being out on the water in kayaks and a hands-on service project.
Hoping the Red Sox beat the Yankees....
Great first day! After meeting at the airport at 6am, we took off for DC at 7:30am. It was a tight connection in Houston, but we all hustled to the gate, they held the plane, and we arrived on time a little after 4pm ET. In DC we met our new friends from World Leadership School, Justine and Randall. They quickly assimilated, and we formed one strong team. The kids were great travelers, and we all took the metro to the hotel.
After checking in and putting bags away, we met for pizza and salad before heading out for our night tour. We started with the WW II Memorial and also saw MLK, Vietnam and Lincoln. A highlight is always the kids delivering speeches, and this year was no different. Zeke took video which we will upload, and look for pictures from Morgan. The night ended with over 10,000 steps, no complaining, a few snacks, and hopefully the kids are ready for a good night sleep. We have an action packed day tomorrow, and we are off to a great start with kids being respectful, excited, polite and inclusive.