On October 1st, a group of 24 students in Grades 10 and 11 embarked on a journey to the capital of the United States, Washington D.C. We spent our four days in the city sightseeing, exploring, and broadening our horizons through the myriad of excursions and tours that were planned for us in this hive of historical and cultural enrichment and immersion.
The morning of our first day, we visited Mount Vernon, George and Martha Washington’s estate situated on the banks of the Potomac River. We were given a tour about the history of slave life at the estate and a tour of the house itself. The tours opened our eyes to the dark past of the plantation and allowed us to discover Washington’s multifaceted nature and his multitude of interests.
Next, our group spent several hours on a walking tour of the Arlington National Cemetery, the United States’ most hallowed ground where approximately 400,000 graves are located. We visited many of the Kennedy family members’ places of burial, walked among the graves of thousands of dead from the nation’s conflicts beginning in the Civil War, and witnessed the changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
We took a night tour of the memorials, including the World War II Memorial, the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, and the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. This was followed by a group dinner at Ben’s Chili Bowl, a Washington landmark, where we gained a memorable cultural and gastronomical experience that truly gave us a taste of D.C. Eating at Ben’s is considered to be a test for becoming a true Washingtonian!
We also paid a visit to the newly-opened National Museum of African American History and Culture, as well as the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Of course, no visit to the D.C. is complete without a viewing of the White House and the Capitol itself. We were left in awe after the expansive tour of the Capitol’s many treasures, including the Crypt, the Rotunda, and the National Statuary Hall.
On a more cultural note, we were given the unique chance to immerse ourselves in painting and the arts at the National Gallery of Art, where we received extremely thorough tours of several key artworks in the gallery. As well, our group made two trips to the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and attended viewings of both Shear Madness, a comedic whodunit that emphasizes audience participation, and the Improvised Shakespeare Company’s production of Around the Town of Ducks, an entirely improvised play in Shakespearean prose based off of an audience suggestion.
On behalf of all the participants of the trip, we’d like to express our immense gratitude toward our three dedicated, engaging, and inspiring teacher chaperones: Mr. Downer, Ms. Stefanescu, and Ms. Barbanchon, as well as our knowledgeable and energetic tour leader Leesa. This year’s D.C. Breakout Week trip simply would not have been the same without them.
To students currently in Grade 9: if you have the chance, we greatly encourage you to travel to Washington on Breakout Week in the coming years, as it will be an incredible, unforgettable, and unparalleled experience.