Following the Steps of History: A Student Trip to NYC, Washington D.C., Philadelphia & Gettysburg

For many students living faraway from the East Coast in other parts of the U.S., a student trip is often a once in a lifetime experience. Jason Fulton’s eight grade history students visit the East Coast each summer, departing from Azalea Middle School in Oregon. The educational objectives of the trip are to study the Revolutionary through the Civil War era.  Having his students explore the actual sites where this history took place is important to Fulton, “As we travel through time in the classroom, I focus on the many stops on our trip.  I want the students to understand the land before they walk on it,” commented Fulton.

Students Travel to Three Different States Discovering History

Fulton’s class trip occurs in the summer and includes a packed itinerary that takes students on a historical tour of three different states: New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia.  The student trip is seven days and five nights and includes a look at some of the most famous historical sites in the East, including Gettysburg, PA, the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty in New York City, and Mount Vernon in Virginia. This is just a sampling of historical places. This ambitious tour encompasses even more sites.

Active Learning Through Living History in Gettysburg

One of the favorite destinations for students on this school trip was Gettysburg. Here they toured the famous battlefields where there were a massive number of soldiers killed in both the Union and Confederate ranks. Fulton scheduled a ghost tour of Gettysburg for the group. Fulton remarked, “Kids love to be scared!  They also liked to walk the streets of Gettysburg since it too was part of the battlefield.”  The ghosts of Gettysburg helped to ignite their interest in history. So did their meeting with Abraham Lincoln, a living history actor.  “President Lincoln was a kick because of all the knowledge the actor has about Lincoln and the war,” said Fulton.  He said both of these active learning experiences were a great way to assimilate information about the Civil War from different perspectives.

Highlights of Student Tour of Washington D.C. Area

From Gettysburg, students traveled south to the Washington D.C. area.  On the way they visited Antietam Battlefield, Harpers Ferry and Arlington National Cemetery.  During a visit to Mount Vernon the next day, the student group participated in a ceremony where they laid a wreath on George Washington’s grave. “This is a big part of our trip,” said Fulton.  “We have been doing this for many years.  The kids learn how special they are when they lay the wreath.  It is awe inspiring for them.”

Students learn about American History through books, film and the World Wide Web. Yet when they actually have the opportunity to reach out and touch a place where history occurred it seems somehow more memorable.  Making a trip to the East Coast from Oregon for nearly a week takes a commitment of time and resources.  Fulton’s eighth grade students fund their own trips. For many, this opportunity to follow the steps of the great figures of Early American history is desirable, and helps to widen their understanding of the formation of the United States.

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