For a year leading up to the student Washington D.C. trip, teacher Michelle Rochel prepares her students for the journey in her classroom. She currently teaches 5th and 6th grade Religion, 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th grade Social Studies and Science. She is also the Middle School Coordinator and Dean of Students at Saint Anne Catholic School in Somerset, Wisconsin. For the past ten years, Rochel has been taking her students to Washington D.C. where they can learn firsthand about American history.
Student Trip to Washington D.C. Enhances Classroom Studies
“I think this is something every child should experience,” said Rochel. “I am grateful for the opportunity to bring them to Washington D.C. and have them be witnesses to history,” she added. The trip enhances their studies of the Declaration of Independence, U.S. presidents and the Holocaust, to name just a few aspects of American history covered.
To pay for travel expenses, students and parents engage in fundraising beginning sometimes two years prior to the Washington D.C. trip. “Right now, we are one-fourth of the way towards our fundraising goals,” commented Rochel.
Students View the Holocaust Museum Exhibits
One of the most memorable parts of the trip included a visit to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. When the group visited the Holocaust Museum, “They were speechless,” recalled Rochel. “In the classroom, we went in depth in our studies of Holocaust victims and survivors. At this museum they could see the human faces that went into these stories. It will be something they never forget.” The powerful, graphic images of mass extermination of the Jewish people and others Hitler deemed outcasts are a great deal to process. The interactive exhibits at the museum as well as personal stories gathered from survivors make the information accessible and the experience authentic.
Newseum Well-Loved by Students and Teacher
The student group also visited the Newseum — right in the heart of Washington D.C. This museum is equipped with state-of-the-art multimedia delivery of historical information. All major media news sources are represented with interactive exhibits. Video, audio, photographic and written information is presented for easy assimilation. Excerpts from interesting and volatile periods in American history are featured. Rochel said, “All of the kids were able to find something in the Newseum of interest, whether it was sports, world news, current events, or other topics that intrigued them. There was something for everyone in the Newseum. I am hoping to include this museum on our next Washington D.C. trip.”
Rochel’s students visited many other places in Washington D.C., including the Smithsonian American and Natural History Museums, the National Archives, Arlington National Cemetery, the Pentagon, the U.S. Capitol Building, the White House Photo Shop, Mount Vernon, the Air and Space Museum and the National Zoo. They also attended mass at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. This ambitious itinerary was well worth it, especially because some of Rochel’s students have never been on an airplane, or to the East Coast. “They return with a deeper appreciation and a better understanding of their own history,” said Rochel.