Carl Bosch reflects on his recent field trip to our nation’s capital with a host of 8th graders.
10,129 days down – 46 left
220 8th graders. 21 chaperones. Five coach busses. A 600 mild round trip—Connecticut to Washington, D.C. Museums, monuments, theater, a dance, two overnights in a Marriott Hotel. Sound like a recipe for fun? Or an insane journey to the inner circle of hell? You decide.
Required to arrive at school at 5:45 A.M. for a 6:00 A.M. departure, we leave at 6:32, irate at two straggling boys who overslept. Free flowing traffic puts us in front of the Capitol building in D.C. right on time for a group picture. But first we line up all 200 plus students, in size order, tallest to shortest. It’s like lining up 200 cats by color, black to white. Try this sometime. I dare you.
We’ve stepped into a Washington, D.C. that can’t decide on its weather. As we walk to historic sites we flip back and forth between raw Scottish-style rain and wind, then sunny spring days. And back again. We’re soaked, freezing. Wait! The sun is out. No, we’re drenched. Hold on … blue sky.
Finally, the hotel, dinner and a dance … of sorts. D.J. Tony ramps up the hip-hop and rap, ear splitting, one hundred decibel rhythms masked as music. Students crush, en masse, into a black hole of hormones. For two hours they basically hop up and down, pump fisting. Boys who perform poorly in class and can’t or won’t memorize simple facts for a science or social studies test know every single work to every single song. The last song of the night was by a group called FUN. The chorus runs: “Tonight. We are young. So let’s set the world on fire. We can burn brighter than the sun!” And they do. End day one.
Wake up call—6:00 A.M. Eggs, pancakes, sausage; the kids want coffee. Everything cooperates, weather and traffic. Museums are fantastic, kids are on time. We’ve had a few little problems; missing money, minor health concerns. Four of our students participate in a ceremony to place a wreathe at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. All our students observe with silence, dignity and respect. We eat dinner at a large Italian restaurant – family style. 240 family members. Imagine. Like foot soldiers of culture we end the evening at a play. An hour too long, the kids hang in there. Day two, check.
6:30 wake-up. More eggs, more coffee, more problems, mostly minor, delays, hassles, messy rooms. Some students have a glazed look starting to mount around their eyes. One last museum and we turn the busses north for home. Traffic and a bus malfunction drag us to one, two hours late. Day three.
Fun or fiasco? A few years ago on the same trip our bus was hit by a taxicab in downtown D.C., I spent an entire overnight in an emergency room with an 8th grader who suffered an allergic reaction and our bus driver got sick. This year was fun. But remember…I’m not returning.
Photo credit: Flickr / zoonabar