After over a year of fundraising efforts, including selling the World’s Finest Chocolate, spreading mulch for the Garden Thyme Club, holding a bake sale, and bussing tables at Pizza Ranch, a group of 20 seventh- and eighth-grade Lynnville-Sully students embarked on a trip of a lifetime to Washington, D.C.
The students, along with teachers Mike Parkinson and Brad Bowlin and seven parents, met at the school very early on Tuesday morning, June 6. They were taken by charter bus to Des Moines, where they flew to Detroit, and then on to the nation’s capital city, arriving around 1 p.m. Eastern time. This was Parkinson’s fourth trip he’s organized and went on with students. Along with the fundraisers, the trip was also made possible by local generous people who made this possible.
“We hold our trip every two years, and I took my first group back in 2011 when I was teaching at Woodward-Granger. We started here in 2013 and have had trips in 2015 and now in 2017. I plan to continue to offer a trip as long as we have enough interest,” said Parkinson, who will move into the high school social studies position this coming school year.
Parkinson said their tour company, World Strides, is “without a doubt, the leading tour company for this trip.”
“In 2010, I received a phone call from World Strides from a referring teacher,” explained Parkinson. “I researched the company, talked to other teachers, and gave them a shot. We had 11 people go the first year, and at L-S we've had 30, 32, and 29 go in the years following. It's been a great trip! When you go to D.C., you see a lot of students traveling with World Strides. They arrange everything – the flights, bus, tours, tour guide, hotel, accommodations, and so much more. They are great to work with.”
The group of 29 stayed at the Hilton in Gaithersburg, MD, and were blessed with fantastic weather.
“We usually stay a little outside of D.C., since it helps with the cost of the trip, and it gives us a little time to chat and relax after a long, fun day,” Parkinson said. “While in D.C., the weather was gorgeous. It was upper 60s and lower 70s mostly. Friday was the warmest, around 80, but it was the best weather I've ever experienced in D.C.”
Upon their arrival in D.C., the group first visited the Air and Space Smithsonian Museum. Then they headed to the National Archives to see the three major documents in U.S. History: The Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. To end their first night in the nation’s capital, the group visited a few monuments, including the WWII Memorial, which was especially moving as it happened to be D-Day.
On Wednesday, day two, the group started the day with breakfast at the Hard Rock Café, followed by a tour of Ford’s Theater, and then a visit to the Vietnam/Korean Memorial.
“My favorite part of the trip was seeing the Vietnam Memorial,” said seventh-grader Jack Conn. “It really made me think about the ultimate sacrifice these soldiers made for our country.”
After seeing this memorial, the group headed to the highly-anticipated Holocaust Museum, where they were privileged to meet two Holocaust survivors.
“The kids really liked going to the Holocaust Museum,” said Parkinson. “Many of them have learned a lot about the Holocaust in middle school, and this was a chance to bring some of that learning to life. It's a very real learning experience and is obviously a serious one. I think our kids handled it really well.”
“The Holocaust Museum was my favorite thing to see,” added seventh-grader Owen Norrish.
“It was really fascinating, and I’m looking forward to learning more about it, as we’ll study it in-depth in eighth grade. This was my first time visiting Washington, D.C., but it won’t be my last!”
On Wednesday night, the group attended the U.S. Army’s “Twilight Tattoo,” a pageantry show covering the history of the country through music and military demonstrations. While there, they met and got acquainted with Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa).
“The ‘Twilight Tattoo’ show was my favorite part of the trip,” shared eighth-grader Caitlin Alberts, who enjoyed her first trip to Washington, D.C.“The modern-day call is known as ‘Tattoo’ and during basic training, the call signals the time to quiet down and hit the bunks. The people were dressed up in uniforms representative of that time.” She was also surprised at how close they were able to get to the White House.
The following day, the group met with two more big names in our government.
“On Thursday, we went to the U.S. Capitol where we met both Congress-man Dave Loebsack, District 2 Represen-tative (D-Iowa), and Senator Charles Grassley (R-Iowa),” said Parkinson. “Both talked with us for about 10 minutes and then returned to working back in the Capitol. We then took a tour and visited the Senate Chambers and the Library of Congress.”
Grassley greeted the students on the steps of the Capitol and answered questions about his work for Iowans. Students were interested in Grassley’s duties as a senator and his role as Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
“I enjoyed meeting with the Lynnville-Sully students,” Grassley said. “I appreciate the opportunity to speak with students and answer their questions.”
Other stops on Thursday included a trip to the Newseum, which portrays a unique take on U.S. history, from the perspective of the media.
“That afternoon we went to Arlington National Cemetery to pay our respects and watch the Changing of the Guard,” said Parkinson.
"I have gained so much more respect for the people that served our country as we visited the memorials and exhibits,” shared seventh-grader Kynlee James. “My favorite place to visit was Arlington National Cemetery because of Changing of the Guard."
Friday was the group’s final day in D.C.
“We started our day on Friday by touring Mount Vernon, the home of George Washington,” Parkinson said. “We spent several hours there, and when we returned to D.C. from Alexandria, we went to the American History and Natural History Smithsonian Museums. We flew home that night, with a stop in St. Louis, getting back pretty late, around 12:30 a.m., but the early mornings and late night were well worth the trip!”