Have you ever wondered what it would be like to see our country from the eyes of the Founding Fathers? For the past 10 years, 8th grade students at St. Bonaventure Catholic School have looked forward to their East Coast Adventure as a way to bring alive and authentically experience United States history. The extended study trip has become a much-anticipated “rite of passage” for the 8th graders where they can enrich their life-long learning in a unique, historical arena.
Throughout the journey, students are recognized and commended for living out School-Wide Learning Expectations: Active Christ-Centered Catholics, Life-Long Learners, Effective Communicators and Responsible Citizens.
The trip begins with an overnight flight into Washington DC. The first stop is Mount Vernon, where the students experience life in colonial times. Visits to the White House, the National Archives and the Pentagon allow the students to experience the heart of our government. On a former trip, the students were lucky enough to play with President Obama’s dog, greet his Chief of Staff and wave to him in the Rose Garden as he took off in his helicopter.
At Gettysburg they tour the battlefield and explore the Underground Railroad. After dinner they are riveted as they listen to Abraham Lincoln “in person” giving his Gettysburg Address. Travel through Pennsylvania into Amish country allows the students to experience this unique community and enjoy a bounty of homemade, delectable treats.
Once in Philadelphia, students visit Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell and the Constitution Center. The day concludes, as always, with a meal that connects the students to the area, in this case an authentic Philly Cheesesteak. The students are even taught how a true Philadelphian places the order for a Philly Cheesesteak before leaving the tour bus – it’s not easy!
A particularly moving experience for the students is a walking tour of Arlington National Cemetery that culminates with students laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The last day in Washington DC includes a tour of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception and concludes with Palm Sunday Mass at the Basilica where students serve as altar servers and gift bearers.