Washington D.C. 2023-24

– Mr. Brannan & the 8th Grade Chaperones


Students were still a little slow to get ready for breakfast. When they emerged from their rooms, however, they all looked really nice, better than the chaperones even! They were more dressed up than normal in anticipation of visiting the Capitol. (Check out the photos!) So, we’ll give them a pass for being a bit late. 


What a day for us to visit Capitol Hill! With the fallout of Kevin McCarthy being the first Speaker of the House ousted from his position and Nancy Pelosi being evicted from her office while in California, all while the 45-day CR looms over everything, the old curse, “May you live in interesting times,” really jumps to the forefront of the chaperones’ minds.


When we arrived at the Capitol for our tour, we were ushered into a theater in the basement in order to view a quick intro video about the purpose and history of Congress, titled “Out of Many, One.” The intro talked about the many perspectives of the people of the USA and how they elect representatives whose job it is to work with other representatives from around the country to reach an effective and meaningful compromise that benefits all Americans. Perhaps the members of Congress need to be escorted to the basement to watch this video before their next session to remind them of their sworn duties. 


After the video, we were led through the rotunda, the statuary hall, past Kevin McCarthy’s Patrick McHenry’s Speaker of the House office, and to the gift shop. 


Here’s what your kids thought of this cool experience:


Cosi: The ceiling in the rotunda was cool. It was so tall. 


Gabe:  I liked the video we watched at the beginning. It was really informative. 


Luce:  I liked all the statues and how all the states get to give two statues of their choice and have the option to swap them out if they want. 


Claire:  I liked the smaller room we went to that used to be the House chamber. 


Aubrey:  I liked the rotunda with all the paintings that show the history of America. 


Ralphy:  the pictures in the rotunda were nice. But they did seem to be a little idealized. 


Shoutout to Beth Cowart and her father who helped us secure a tour slot large enough to accommodate our group!


After our tour, we made our way to the Dirksen Senate Building cafeteria. Mr. Brannan tried to talk a few kids into trying the “100-year-old Senate bean soup” mandated to be served in the Senate cafeteria. The origin as to why it must always be a food option in the cafeteria is still debated, but the traditional recipe is still served each day. No student took Mr. Brannan up on his suggestion, perhaps because of the way he described it. The recipe is 100 years old, not the soup. They make it fresh daily.


While browsing their food choices, Senator Mark Kelly of Arizona surprised a few students by asking them questions about their trip and where they were from. He was met with faces of, ‘Who are you?’ and ‘I’m hungry . . . food now!’ No big deal, I guess. He’s only been to space! 


After eating, we walked over to the Library of Congress (LOC), which is a truly spectacular building and a masterpiece of neoclassical architecture and art. Its Grand Dome tops the Great Hall, filling the space with light to bring emphasis to the colors of the tiles and murals that decorate the building. Throughout the building, visitors can admire sculptures representing historical and literary figures, along with elaborate mosaics and stunning paintings. Together, these elements create a space that celebrates intellectual richness and cultural heritage, making the LOC a true marvel for art and architecture enthusiasts. It’s no wonder why it’s Ms. Reimann’s favorite building in DC. 


As everyone admired the beauty of the building, Mr. Brannan snuck away to the Main Reading Room with his official LOC card in hand. By the time the students reached the observation area that looks down into the reading room, he was sauntering around the room that was off-limits to them. He took far too much pleasure in being able to do so. 


While exiting the LOC, Maggie approached Mrs. Rod and Mr. Brannan to ask where we were going next. 


“The National Archives.”


“Do they have a gift shop?”






Then, Eli quickly ran up: “I have replicas of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights already. Do you think I can get the Declaration of Independence at the National Archives?”


“Well, Nicholas Cage was able to.”




“Nothing. Yes, the gift shop will have a replica for sale.”


At the National Archives, students were able to view the original Declaration of Independence, the US Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. They also walked through an exhibit that traces many of the ideas of these documents back to the Magna Carta. Oh, yeah, and Eli completed his replica triumvirate. 


Our next stop was the Spy Museum where the students learned about the role of espionage in foreign affairs. They got to see exhibits on George Washington’s spy ring during the Revolutionary War, learn how spies influenced events of the Cold War, and see how Osama bin Laden’s location was uncovered. But, mostly they enjoyed the interactive exhibits. They got to go on their own secret mission, crawl through a fake air duct, and pretend they were hanging from the crane from the opening scene of Casino Royale. The goal of the last challenge was to be able to hang onto the extra slippery bar of the crane for a minute. Most of us couldn’t hang on very long. But, Ezeh held on for 59.1 seconds, and Maximus and Aubrey made it the full minute!


Dinner tonight was at Yard House, and it gave us the opportunity to celebrate Beck’s birthday! On top of dinner, every kid received a brookie with ice cream to celebrate Beck and sang Happy Birthday to him. Beck was laughing and smiling throughout dinner with his friends. We’re certain this will be a birthday he’ll always remember. 


After dinner, on the bus ride over to the memorials, the sugar from the ice cream and brookies began to wreak havoc on our brain chemistry. But mostly it affected your children. Your sugared-up teens started talking faster and faster and faster until they were singing. What were they singing? What were those lyrics? From some sort of era? Oh, yes, the Eras Tour. Taylor Swift, of course. And boy did they try to hit every high note. And there was Ms. Scarlett looking up the lyrics for Caroline, so she could sing along too. We don’t know if she was being nice to the kids or mean to the adults.


Luckily, the bus ride ended, and the sugar-induced mania seemed to subside because we arrived at our last stop for the night:  the Lincoln, Vietnam Veterans, and Korean War Memorials. Students gathered in their groups and the tour guides highlighted the importance of this year as it is the 60th anniversary of Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, and they pointed out the various symbolic elements students could find as they explored the memorials.


Here are some students’ thoughts on what they saw:


Ralphy:  All the soldiers’ faces in the Korean War Memorial looked scared for their lives. 


Maggie:  Lincoln is huge.

Harper:  It’s sad how many people died in Vietnam, and I feel bad for everyone who died.

Caroline:  Too many victims. Takes so long to walk past all the names. 

Jaxon:  The Korean and Vietnam listed all the names and soldiers definitely in memory of those who died. 

Sloan:  This is so fun I wanna live here. This is my happy place.


And that wraps it up for tonight. Tomorrow we have yet another busy and fun day in DC!


Over and out,


The 8th Grade Chaperones