Annual eighth grade DC trip brings history to life

photo by Andrew Mericle | West Grand students stopping for a selfie in front of the White House.
photo by Andrew Mericle | West Grand students stopping for a selfie in front of the White House.

by Christy Parrott
Recently, English, Social Studies and Civics teacher Andrew Mericle hosted West Grand Middle School’s annual 8th grade Washington DC trip. Along with chaperones Andrea Buller, Ralph Graves and Teacher of the Year, Jenn Stuart, West Grand students Parker Graves, Chris Wellington, Rigo Castillo, Tristen O’Hotto, Zade Overholt, Ollie Bergman, Logan Schaeffer, Thomas Frye, Sage Lechman, Lily Butler, Carly Kellen, Jordayn Lutrell, Lauren Hoesli, Morgan Nelson and Lisi Buller (along with students from East Grand Middle School) traveled to the nation’s capitol and experienced American history jump out of textbooks and into tangible experiences.

Mr. Mericle and chaperones were able to pack an impressive amount of history into the four-day trip, which included attending the Newseum and National Archives; the Lincoln, Jefferson, FDR, Marine, Air Force, Korean and Vietnam war memorials; Library of Congress, Arlington National Cemetery, Holocaust Museum, George Washington’s Mount Vernon, the Capitol Building, Ford Theater, National Mall, and select Smithsonian museums. A smaller group also attended the Air and Space museum and saw a portion of the Berlin Wall. Students witnessed the ceremonious changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, toured haunted houses in Alexandria, took a boat ride up the Potomac River, as well as visited the 911 memorial at the Pentagon and saw parts of the rubble from the Twin Towers.

Ralph Graves and his son, Parker, were even able to locate a relative buried in Arlington Cemetery.

Indelible to all was the Holocaust museum. “I believe that was the most educational for adults and kids alike,” Ralph Graves shares. Student Chris Wellington adds, “It showed what it was really like, and I couldn’t help but tear up after seeing what innocent people had to go through due to one man and his crazy, evil ideas.” Another student agrees, “They had the ‘beds’ that they slept on and [we saw] the shoes they had to wear.” Mr. Mericle explains, “Some people take our freedom for granted, and these students haven’t really experienced a time when our freedom has been threatened. The war memorials helped them realize how many Americans sacrificed their lives for our freedoms, as well as other country’s freedoms.” One student noted their appreciation for

“Getting to see the WWII memorial and all of the people who had to lose their life to keep us free.” Students also saw the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. One student marveled at the idea of “A piece of paper holding our country together.”
Forever ingrained in the memory of those who attended is the history of our country coming to life. “The students got to stand on the very steps where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his ‘I Have a Dream’ speech,” Mr. Mericle says. By visiting our nation’s capitol, historical figures, places and artifacts were no longer fictional elements read from a book. Students were able to soak up a wealth of our nation’s past in order to more fully contextualize our history against current events. Wellington shares, “After visiting Washington DC, I felt like a true citizen.” Mr. Mericle explains, “This is a bucket list trip for these kids,” and he wants to thank everyone involved. At a cost of $1200 per person, which includes airfare, hotel and meals, many students had to raise funds in order to cover expenses. Special thanks are owed to The Grand Foundation for providing gap funding, as well as to Monica Cary of Last Time Round thrift store, for offering scholarship money to students winning essay contests.

“The community is always ready to help the kids every year,” Mr. Mericle assures. “We’re grateful to everyone involved.”

Chaperone Ralph Graves also added his appreciation to the Kremmling Rotary and West Grand Educational Foundation for scholarships they offered. He commented they were gratefully accepted and helped reduce the financial burden of the trip for students.