Plato's Diary - April 3, 2015

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April 3, 2015


Dear Diary,

I could sleep for an entire week! The 8th grade class had an amazing trip to Washington D.C., but we did not get much sleep and did a LOT of walking! Here is a recap of our week:

On Monday, we left Socrates at 5:45 a.m. and started our journey. We stopped for lunch near Richmond, Virginia and kept on driving. Our first stop was Mount Vernon, the home of General George Washington. Our tour guide, KJ, met us there and I quickly realized that he was going to be a lot of fun! One of the Mount Vernon tour guides told us he preferred to be called “General” because he felt the term “President” should be reserved for the individual in office at that time. We toured the beautiful property, visited his tomb, and walked through his home. There was a really great museum there too and I learned a lot about how our country fought for freedom and set up a government. George Washington was fascinating and I will have to read more about him. After our tour, we went to dinner at the Hard Rock Café before beginning a tour of some of the famous monuments. At night, the memorials are beautiful with all the lights shining on them. We stopped at the Lincoln Memorial, the Korean War Memorial, the Vietnam Memorial, and the Air Force Memorial. KJ explained how all of the monuments are planned and shared the stories behind the design and construction of them. I learned that many of the monuments form a cross through the city with the Washington Monument serving as the center. The Air Force Memorial looks out over the Pentagon and faces the side that was hit by the plane on 9-11. I was amazed at the amount of artistry, architecture, symbolism, and design that goes into each of these. There are some truly creative and talented individuals behind these! After such a long day, it was time to check into the hotel, get all of the students settled in their rooms, and tuck into bed for a few short hours of sleep.

We woke up on Tuesday ready to tackle a busy day. Our first stop was the Marine Memorial which was a recreation of the battle at Iwo Jima. From there, we went to the Jefferson Memorial and it was truly stunning on such a gorgeous day. The weather was gorgeous and we spent some time just enjoying how pretty the city is in the sunshine. We saw the helicopters that are used to transport the President and other important officials around the city and one of the passengers even waved to our group! Next, we went to the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History and toured a lot of exhibits. I really enjoyed the Oceans exhibit, the gems (including the Hope Diamond!), and a display of the best nature photography. Miss Priganc entered the caption contest for some of the photos and came up with some funny sayings! After lunch, we had some time to go to the Smithsonian Museum of American History. There were some interesting exhibits about our country’s participation in wars, pop culture, and inventions. I could spend all day in just one museum, but we didn’t have enough time to stop and read everything. I will have to go back some day and spend more time there. All the Smithsonian Museums are free which is pretty amazing if you ask me! The students had been waiting all day and it was finally time for us to go to the Holocaust Museum. I knew it was going to be emotional, but I did not expect that it would be so powerful. The museum has done a wonderful job of honoring those who lost their lives in the Holocaust and helping visitors understand the history involved. This was another museum that I wished we could have spent more time visiting, but I am so glad we were able to visit. Miss Priganc found the name Janina Fronczak on the Wall of Rescuers. She is excited to research this person and find out if it was one of her relatives from Poland. The whole museum experience was emotional for the students. They said it was their favorite place so far. We had dinner at Buca di Beppo and then spent more time visiting sites around the city. Our last stop before returning to the hotel was The Kennedy Center. It was stunning and all of the flags hanging in the Hall of States and Hall of Nations reminded me that people all over the world love the arts.

Wednesday morning started with the Newseum, a museum dedicated to understanding how the media shares stories from all around the world. We got to see the front page from newspapers in every state and from countries around the globe. There was an amazing exhibit called “Stories of Our Lives” that highlighted all the major news events of the past 50 years in a great video. It was pieced together from various newscasts and was a powerful way to show how the world is shaped and changed by each event. I look forward to going back another day and having more time to read all of the exhibits. After lunch, we went to the Franklin D. Roosevelt and Martin Luther King Jr. memorials. Both were inspiring and I loved reading all of the quotes from each of these men. Each was a gifted leader who did so much to shape our history. I could tell the students have learned a lot in Mrs. Salema’s Social Studies class because they had a lot to add to the tour discussion. Our next stop was a tour of the Capitol Building. After a video that explained how the Capitol came to be, our tour guide took us through the building and showed us statues and artwork throughout. He explained the architecture and showed us where the House and Senate meet. We had dinner at King Street Blues in Crystal City, did a little souvenir shopping, and then visited the WW II Memorial and Washington Monument.

Thursday was our last day and perhaps the most special. We visited Arlington National Cemetery. KJ took us through parts of the cemetery and showed us where JFK and his brother were buried, explained the history of how the property was acquired from the wife of Robert E. Lee, and the symbolism of the grave markers. We heard the gun salutes for two funerals that were going on and it was hard to think that soldiers were being buried while we were there. KJ told us that based on the section they were being buried, they would have been active duty or veterans of the recent war in Iraq and Afghanistan. We walked up to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and watched the Changing of the Guard. I was impressed by the precision and honor they show in this ceremony. It gave me chills. Four of our students placed a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and it was powerful to see them participate in this ritual. Before leaving Arlington, we visited the Challenger memorial and the new museum dedicated to women in the military. After lunch, it was time to board the bus and head home. It was a long journey, but we made it safely thanks to our driver, Eric.

This was a wonderful week and I am so glad I had the opportunity to travel with the 8th grade. They were great representatives of our school and I was impressed with how much they absorbed in just a few short days. We had fun while learning a lot. Now it is time for Spring Break to begin. Miss Priganc is giving me the week off to rest so I can work hard the last two months of school. I hope all of the Socrates students have a wonderful Spring Break!

--Plato Koukouvaiya

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