The shutdown of the government could not shut out the likes of Lyman Gilmore eighth-graders, who surged through the national monuments in a state of rebellion on their annual educational East Coast trip.
Twenty-five students and nine adults left last week for the East Coast, traveling to Philadelphia, Washington D.C. and New York City. They will return Sunday.
Some parents were disappointed or worried about the shutdown spoiling the trip, but it turned out to be an interesting way for students to learn about the legislative process, said teacher and trip leader Scott Mills.
“By the time we got there, people were ignoring tapes and pushing them aside and walking through them,” Mills said.
The group also received an explanation of the shutdown by Rep. Doug LaMalfa (R-Calif.).
“He encouraged us to go around the barricades. He said ‘Those are your monuments and you should go right on in. No one’s going to arrest anyone because there would be too much political fallout,’” Mills said. “It was really cool to have him explain what’s going on and to go into the House of Representatives’ gallery and listen to the debate.”
The group followed LaMalfa’s advice, Mills said, and visited Gettysburg National Military Park and the Lincoln Monument without any problems.
“The first day we got here, people started tearing barricades down and threw them at the floor of the White House,” Mills said. “It’s an exciting time for the kids to be in Washington, D.C.”
Students also created a version of Pickett’s Charge, the famous American Revolution infantry assault ordered by Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee during the last day of the Battle of Gettysburg, Mills said.
“It was funny. We did our own Pickett’s Charge and jumped over the caution tape,” he said. “We were charging the wall … I had to say ‘Run all the way up there!’” Mills said. “Normally, it wouldn’t be as exciting, but that was the kind of trip we got to have.”
The students were also exposed to protesters with signs and megaphones, adding to the experience, Mills said.
The group was not able to visit national archives and the Smithsonian museums but made it to other historic sites. They were the first ones to visit Valley Forge once it reopened, netting an interview by the Philadelphia Inquirer.
The students are studying the U.S. Constitution in school, which made the timing of everything even more relevant, Mills said. “They got to see the actual Constitution, and we went to the signing room where they signed the Declaration of Independence,” he said. “They all had to memorize the preamble and we have tour guides, so they learn probably more on this trip in a week than in a whole year.”
Student Eliyana Van Doren said the experience has been “super fun,” adding, “It was really cool going into the capital building and the Lincoln Memorial. Even though the government was closed, we still got to do a bunch of stuff and I learned a lot about the Gettysburg battle and Lincoln Memorial.”
Shawn Fletcher said that going to the Lincoln Memorial was his favorite part so far.
“It was just really breathtaking for me. I thought I had a clear picture of what it looked like, but I saw it up close and it was really awesome,” he said. “I thought I knew a lot about how Washington became our capital, but I’ve learned a lot more.”
To contact Staff Writer Jennifer Terman, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4230.