by Howard Clemens
Jim Roche, Assistant Principal at St. Eugene Catholic School in Point Fox, WI, recently took his students on a student tour of Washington, DC. The student trip was designed to encompass a wealth of cultural and spiritual landmarks, from the Smithsonian to the famous National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. Specifically, Roche wanted to give the students a broader picture of American history. He also wanted to encourage classroom spirit and camaraderie.
As it turned out, the expedition was an enlightening and enriching experience for the students, and a great success. The backdrop of Washington D.C., with its exciting city landscape, added to the students’ overall enjoyment, and helped to generate curiosity and enthusiasm for learning. When I had the chance to interview Jim, he went over some notable details of the trip. He also talked about how he felt student travel in general had been beneficial to his classes.
Q. What is your position at St. Eugene School?
A. I am the Assistant Principal
Q. When you put this trip together, what was your vision?
A. We offered the expedition as an official 8th grade class trip. We’ve been going to Washington D.C. for at least 7 or 8 years, and I think the last 5 or so have been with the travel group we’re using now. Our purpose is twofold: to build unity in the class and to experience the history of our nation.
Q. Your group visited many of the major sites, such as the U.S. Capitol, the MLK Memorial, the White House, and the National Archives. How do these sites tie in with your studies?
A. The 8th grader studies U.S. History, so the tie-in is perfect. Prior to the trip, the students are asked to research a specific monument or venue and share it with the class. The visit becomes an integral part of their study of U.S. government, as well.
Q. You chose to bring your group to the Holocaust Museum. What were students’ reactions to visiting this site?
A. Each student has a different reaction. For some, it is a very intense experience, almost overwhelming. For others, it opens their eyes to the Holocaust in ways they’ve never contemplated before. It’s a must-see for us.
Q. Which Smithsonian museums did you visit, and why?
A. Each year we go to the Air & Space Museum. The 8th grade studies Astronomy in the spring, so it helps bring to life their study of the Space Program in particular. We also visit the Natural History Museum, and one other museum that the students get to choose.
Q. As a Catholic school group, it was probably very important to you to bring the children to a mass in Washington D.C. Why did you choose Basilica of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception? Can you describe the mass and students’ reaction to having a mass there, as opposed to in their own hometown?
A. In prior years, we’d always gone to the Basilica. It’s obviously much different than our own parish. The students attend Mass in the lower level chapel, which provides a unique liturgical experience for them. The whole atmosphere is reverent and rewarding.
Q. Describe your visit to the Bureau of Engraving. How did it tie in with educational objectives? What were some of the students’ reactions?
A. The Bureau of Engraving has become a student favorite. It doesn’t really tie in to our curriculum directly. It has more to do with their fascination with the U.S. Mint, and seeing all that money in front of them. I think it’s more about the fun than our curriculum, which is fine with me.
Q. Your student group used the subway as a form of transportation. How did this impact your trip’s cost?
A. We used the Metro because our class size was so small. Normally, we use a chartered bus and stay 20 or so miles outside the city. It worked out fine this year and allowed us an affordable option. If our travel group had not offered the Metro option, we probably could not have afforded the trip, so I’m grateful they were willing to work with us to find a solution.
Q. Once they returned to WI and St. Eugene School, were students required to do any post-trip writing or oral presentations?
A. Yes, they prepare scrapbooks and presentations, and write about their experiences. But I think the most important aspect is the memories they have of the trip when they go off to high school, and on their separate ways.
Q. Overall, how would you describe your tour guide and the experience of traveling?
A. They were wonderful to work with. The tour guides have been knowledgeable, friendly, and accommodating to our students’ needs. They’re a big reason why we return each year.
Student travel Offers Opportunities to Grow
The great thing about student travel expeditions is that they can be tailored to fit the interests and focuses of any curriculum. Catholic schools, liberal arts schools, and more traditional schools are all able to work with groups to find or create programs that are right for them. There are no limits to the creative educational possibilities the right trip can provide. Student travel packages have something for everyone, and reflect the diversity and value classroom travel can bring to the school experience.
Request a quote for a student trip to Washington D.C. today.