Washington D.C. 2023


So, yes, we left California to fly across the country only to experience smoke-filled air from raging wildfires. At least it made the kids feel more at home? I don’t know. We’re having a tough time seeing the positive in this.


But these are Cali kids. They’re undeterred by a little smoke in the air. As our colleague back in LA, Mr Whiteman, said, “To them it just smells like a Lakers victory bonfire outside of Crypto.com Arena.” (Are those a thing?)


So, after breakfast, we boarded the buses and headed out to brave the East Coast smokepocalypse. Our first stop was Mount Vernon, the former home of George Washington. Even though the picturesque setting along the Potomac was difficult to take in through the haze, the students were able to tour the estate’s elegant mansion, walk through its gardens, step into its various outbuildings, and tour its excellent onsite museum.


After touring Washington’s house at Mount Vernon and walking the grounds, Leah, Fia, Lily, and Maya Kate hurriedly approached Mr Brannan with what looked like an important question. As they approached, he wondered if they’d ask him about the iron key prominently displayed in George Washington’s house that opened the gates of the Bastille and was gifted to him by the Marquis de Lafayette while the French Revolution was still ongoing. Or, maybe they’d ask him about the memorial to the enslaved people who built and maintained the estate for decades. He was wrong. They wanted to ask if they could play the Wordle (and got it in four guesses, by the way).


Of course, figuring out the Wordle wasn’t the only highlight of Mount Vernon. Here’s some thoughts from the kids:


Jackson: The sword collection and detailed exhibits on the restoration process were neat. 


Jessica: I could have spent more time in the museum. There were so many cool things. I wanted to do more of the interactive exhibits. 


Micaela: I found everything in the museum so interesting. 


Tara: I’ve always wanted to experience a 4-D movie, and now I have. The short film showing all of Washington’s battles during the revolution, with the shaking seats when cannons were fired to the snow falling during the Battle of Trenton, was really fun. 


After Mount Vernon, we took a short trip to Old Town Alexandria, a captivating historic district situated along the Potomac River in Northern Virginia. Its history dates back to 1749, when it was founded as a tobacco trading post. George Washington frequented the area and ran up more than a few hefty bar tabs there in his day with the help of a few of his friends. Our students didn’t visit any of the establishments where the Father of Our Country ran up those tabs, but they did have a chance to wander down its cobblestoned streets and past its well-preserved historical buildings. The chaperones also ate in a restaurant situated in a historic building along the waterfront. Did the kids? Maybe . . . but more likely than not, they went to the Five Guys down the road.


With bellies full and some kinder buddy gifts purchased from the local shops, we hopped on the bus to head back to DC. On the bus ride over, we shifted gears to prepare to experience the Holocaust Memorial Museum, which stands as a poignant reminder of the atrocities committed during one of the darkest hours of the 19th century. From the moment you enter its exhibits, you’re hit by the sheer horror of the gradual dehumanization of millions and the systematic slaughter of people in the lands occupied by Nazi Germany. The Holocaust Memorial Museum leaves a lasting impression, serving as a crucial reminder of the importance of preserving memory and working towards a more just and compassionate world.


It’s hard to capture the feelings you experience while meandering through the museum, but we asked your kids to try to do so. Here’s what they said:


Senya: The Holocaust Museum had many impactful moments, one of which was a real train car from the trains that carried victims to their fate. The invisible yet present figures standing within the dark, silent train car within the museums made a heavy impact on me.


Lily: I could barely listen to the video interviews of people taken from families. It happened so long ago, but they could still barely speak to tell the story.


Nalah: The many, many names all around the museum. You couldn’t keep track of how many. And that probably wasn’t all that died.


Fia: The picture of the shaved hair was unbelievable. There was so, so much. It really shows the human toll. It’s hard to imagine the numbers of victims till you see something like that. 


Jessica: Having the railcar in the museum was impactful. There was a sign saying how many people were fitted into each car. You could then step into that car and it was so small. 


Agustya: There were survivors there. I got to speak with them. They were really nice, but their stories were so sad. It’s amazing they could still be nice people. 


Lucas: I saw and watched some of the video interviews for a while. What they lived through was scary. 


Sadie: I was able to experience unique and special places. The Holocaust Museum was the highlight of my day because I got to connect my reading of Night to the information from the museum.


Gavin: I was surprised. I knew a little bit about the Holocaust but I didn’t know it was so deep, you know.


Callan: We don’t see hatred as much in California because of how liberal the state is, but it still exists and this shows that.


Finley: I thought it was sad because of how much murdering occurred during that time.


Dillon: It gave more insight into all the things we have studied throughout our time at WNS. 

We need to combat hate within our own community. 


Trevor: You can look within as well. Our actions and words affect others. We should always be mindful of that. 


Next, our itinerary took us to the National Portrait Gallery. Though not originally on our itinerary, it’s such a worthwhile museum that students can enjoy in a short time, even if they can’t see everything. Most headed to the portraits of the Presidents and seemed to particularly enjoy the very different portrait of Barack Obama and photograph of Donald Trump.


Dinner in Chinatown followed, with students getting to choose their own culinary adventure. According to our informal survey, Shake Shack, Five Guys, McDonalds, and poke bowls were favorites.


After dinner, we all hopped on the bus and went off to the Lincoln Memorial, Vietnam Memorial, Korean Memorial and the World War II Memorial. Students were given tons of interesting facts about the designs of the memorials. Then students had time to explore. These are some of the thoughts they had while at these historic sights: 


Amber: Is this the same spot where Forrest Gump and Jenny were?


Aiden: I stood where MLK delivered his speech. It felt inspirational.  


Isaac: I was struck by the silence at the and the impact the number of names had on me. 


Brooklyn: I am so grateful for all the places we have been able to go to this week. 


Stay tuned for the events of our final day and departure. We have our final debrief session and visits to the National Air and Space Museum and the Library of Congress, followed by our departure from Reagan International Airport.

We will be arriving at LAX at 8:00pm on Delta flight 380. Remember that you or a designated person is picking up your child(ren) from the baggage claim in terminal 3. A reminder and any updates will be emailed tomorrow.

This edition of the DC blog was brought to you by the 8th grade chaperones and the thoughts from the class of 2023, and there’s more where that came from. Out!

Your 8th grade chaperones