Washington D.C. 2023-24

– Mr. Brannan & the 8th Grade Chaperones


Yesterday, we walked past the Bureau of Engraving and Printing and noticed something unusual. The sign on its headquarters is neither engraved nor printed. It’s made of cast iron(y). That’s not a joke. Well, the parenthetical “y” is a joke, but it’s a real bureau, and its sign is made of cast iron. Perhaps they’re too busy printing and engraving, so they had to outsource the making of their own sign.


Anyway, onto today, our last day in DC . . .


What was immediately apparent when chaperones made their rounds to check on students in the morning was that some students took our advice to pack their bags the night before and some didn’t. Once they realized we weren’t going to release them to breakfast until their entire room was packed and ready, however, suddenly the pace picked up.


On the boys’ side of the hall, Mr. Brannan inspected each room before the kids could vacate, grading each hotel room’s current state in his head from messy teenager to in-their-prime rockstar. Based on this rating, he would encourage a tip of a few dollars to as much as they could spare!


After breakfast, we loaded the bus to head to Mount Vernon, thehome of George Washington, the first president of the United States. Purchased by Washington in 1754, the estate is located along the Potomac River in Fairfax County, Virginia. It features the iconic mansion with outbuildings, gardens, farms, distillery, and gristmill spread across 500 acres. On the property is also an excellent museum detailing Washington’s life and achievements as well as a memorial to the enslaved individuals who built and maintained the property over the years. The highlights of the visit for most students were touring the mansion and watching the 4D film in the museum about Washington’s campaigns during the American Revolution. 


After lunch, we stopped for a quick lunch in Old Town Alexandria. The time crunch proved more difficult for the chaperones than the students. Their usual choice of restaurant is a bit quicker to serve than where the chaperones chose to eat. Nonetheless everyone was able to make it back to the old town square to wave goodbye to our Close Up guides, as we departed for Udvar-Hazy. 


The Udvar-Hazy Center, which is an annex of the National Air and Space Museum located near Washington Dulles International Airport in Virginia, making it the perfect final visit for us prior to checking in for our flight back to LA. Udvar-Hazy provides overflow space for the massive collection of the Air and Space museum. Highlights include the Space Shuttle Discovery, the Boeing B-29 Enola Gay bomber, and the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird spy plane. The expansive hangar-like structure allows visitors to view history’s most iconic aviation artifacts up close, as you can see from the photos of your kiddos.


And then we hopped on the bus again, this time our destination was the airport. We had finally crossed off the last thing on our DC itinerary. 


Here are some final thoughts on the trip from your kids—


Gabe:  The spy Museum was really cool. 


Christina:  Getting the independence to explore on our own and eat on our own was my favorite part of the trip. 


Eli:  I liked the Washington Monument. I thought it was cool. 


Kima:  I liked dancing in front of the White House. 


Liv:  Shear Madness and the characters and the craziness was the best. 


Maddie:  Going to Georgetown and shopping with my friends was a highlight. Shear Madness was also so funny. 


Claire:  I liked the Portrait Gallery. The art was really cool and interesting. 


Shiloh:  The Washington Monument was cool.


Rebecca:  walking around the neighborhoods and making our own choices was fun. 


Harper:  I like the museums and memorials. 


Luce:  I enjoyed Georgetown and Dupont Circle and getting to explore different DC neighborhoods. 


Nolan:  I enjoyed seeing the monuments and memorials and museums. It’s hard to choose one. 


Maggie:  I really liked having independence and walking places with my friends. 


Sloane: Going to the Lincoln Memorial was fun. It was relaxing and you could see many other monuments from there. I also did cartwheels with my friends by the water. 


Ollie:  I enjoyed the Lincoln Memorial. It looked nice when you looked out on the city from there. 


Beck:  It was fun to have my birthday while in DC. 


Lana:  I really enjoyed getting to explore Georgetown with my friends. 


Caroline:  The neighborhoods were really fun to walk around with my friends. 


Vince:  I enjoyed getting to stay in a hotel room with my friends. Best exploration was in Georgetown because the food was good and I had a good time with my friends. 


Ben:  I liked going to my restaurant, Ben’s. It was a good vibe. 


Lila R:  Arlington Cemetery was neat to see and the National Art Gallery. 


Jack:  The night memorials were nice to wander around and see lit up. 


Violetta:  I enjoyed the Spy Museum. The exhibits were so interesting. 


Camille:  I enjoyed Chinatown, walking around with my friends. 


Izzy:  I liked Georgetown for the shopping. 


Maximus:  The Holocaust Museum was crazy. I knew things were bad, but the photos and videos were so much worse than can be imagined.  


Ralphy:  I liked the National Portrait Gallery with all its paintings. 


Harley:  I liked the National Art Gallery because I’m a big fan of art. 


Bennett:  I liked the Portrait Gallery and exploring Chinatown. 


Cici:  I liked the Washington Monument at night, the view from the reflecting pool was so peaceful. Sitting there was magic. 


Evan:  I liked the African American Museum of History and Culture. There were lots of great exhibits, hard to choose only one to recommend. 


Ari:  I enjoyed the bus rides. We saw lots of sights out the window and I got to bond with the different people I sat with throughout the trip. 


Ezeh:  The African American Museum and Natural History museums were the best parts. 


Aubrey:  I like seeing Georgetown. The neighborhood was really pretty. 


Konner:  The Black History Museum was the best thing I saw. 


Gali:  I liked hanging out with Camille on the trip. 


Sienna:  My highlight was Shear Madness. It was funny. 


Lila B:  I really enjoyed hanging our with people I know and also making new friends.


Rishi:  I really liked the Lincoln, Vietnam Veterans, and Korean Memorial. I researched those in class, so it was nice to see them in person. I also liked giving Mr. Brannan snacks. 


Ruby:  I liked the Lincoln Memorial. I’ve seen it before, and it reminded me of when I visited DC when I was little. 


Tyler:  Uh, what did we do? I guess the art museums were good. 


Goldie:  I liked getting lunch and dinner with my friends. The Holocaust Museum was also impactful. 


Raven: The Holocaust museum really impacted me. Though it wasn’t an enjoyable experience, it was really important to be there. I also enjoyed finding mushrooms and rooming with Kima!


Dylan:  I had a good time at the Lincoln Memorial with my friends. 


Liam: The Udvar-Hazy Center was really cool. The planes were awesome. 


Cyrus:  I liked seeing the Capitol. The tour was fun. 


Jaxon: The Washington Monument was cool. It was really tall.


Cosi: I liked the Spy Museum because of the interactive exhibits and the stuff on display.


Zoey:  The Spy Museum was fun with its interactive exhibits. 


Leila:  I enjoyed getting to explore the neighborhoods with my friends and sit next to them on the bus. 


Sasha:  I liked seeing the Holocaust Museum. It was sad but powerful. There was even more info than the museum in LA. It was emotional. 

Now, usually, this is the part of the blog where we wrap things up, where we reflect on a whole year of 8th grade events and accomplishments and wish students well as they get ready for graduation and head off to high school, but this year is different. The near-week-long trip to the nation’s capital provided a meaningful opportunity for students to connect and learn together outside the classroom. Against the backdrop of iconic memorials and museums, they gained a deeper understanding of American history and government. Our hope is your kids return energized and inspired, with new friendships forged and fresh perspectives gained. Throughout the year ahead, teachers will refer back to the trip as they dive into projects and curriculum topics in English, social studies, SPLASH, and more. The 8th graders now share memories of gazing up at the Washington Monument, laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery, and debating issues that are discussed in the Capitol chambers. These experiences will serve as a springboard as students apply what they learned in DC to their studies all year. With tight bonds established and new knowledge in hand, the 8th grade is prepared to make this year at WNS their most successful yet.


Your 8th Grade Chaperones