DC - WNS | Westside Neighborhood School

Washington D.C. – Day 6

By | DC 23-24

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

Washington DC 2023-24 – Day 5

By | DC 23-24

Washington D.C. 2023-24

– Mr. Brannan & the 8th Grade Chaperones


We ended breakfast today with a sentimental moment as a class. Your eighth graders shared special memories they’ve had over the past few days. Christina shared how much fun she had with friends in Georgetown. Vince has had the best time bonding with his roommates at the hotel and inside museums. Hearing what they had to say, we’re sure the memories they are making m with each other and in this trip will have a positive effect on the rest of the year and provide them with happy memories they can look back on for years to come. 


After breakfast, we boarded the bus to stop at the Marine Corps Memorial. Officially dedicated in 1954, the memorial depicts the famous flag raising at Iwo Jima during World War II. Felix de Weldon designed the striking bronze statue based on the iconic, Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph taken by Joe Rosenthal. At an imposing height of 78 feet, the memorial shows six 32-foot tall figures raising the flag on Mount Suribachi. The memorial is a tribute to the valor and sacrifices of the Marine Corps during their victory at Iwo Jima. With its massive scale and realistic detail, the monument vividly captures a pivotal moment for the Marines during World War II that came to symbolize their dedication and bravery. 


Being on the banks of the Potomac River in Arlington, Virginia, looking up at this massive memorial has always been an impactful experience for WNS kids, and this year is no exception, particularly as our arrival lined up perfectly with real Marines raising an American flag up the pole of the memorial. 


The flag vaulted toward the sky, drawing every eye that gazed upon it upward to the American flag before those eyes fell down on the cast iron soldier faces, their grimaces, their tiredness, their determination to do their duty and finish the task given to them no matter the cost, and every man depicted in this statue paid a heavy cost, most of them the ultimate cost. As your students walked around this memorial, they too could feel that cost to some degree. That’s the power of this memorial, a quick, near-accidental photograph taken on a rocky island in the Pacific now transformed into a powerful piece of art.


While the Marine Corps Memorial captures the sacrifices of so many during their time in the Pacific Theatre in World War II, it was a fitting way to begin our morning. Our next stop on the itinerary was the US Holocaust Memorial Museum.


On the bus ride to the museum, the kids discussed the warning signs of genocide, particularly (but not limited to) the warning signs leading up to the Holocaust. A few years ago, Mr. Brannan read the results of a survey that indicated nearly two-thirds of young adults in the US aren’t aware that 6 million Jewish people were exterminated during the Holocaust. Nearly half of those surveyed could not name a single concentration or death camp. Nearly a quarter had some belief or impression the Holocaust was exaggerated or a myth or were unsure about it in some capacity. That’s why places like the US Holocaust Memorial Museum must exist, why we must remember what happened, and why it must be taught and taught effectively. 


Like the African American Museum of History and Culture we visited on Tuesday, the Holocaust Memorial Museum knocks the wind out of you; it grabs you by the collar and shakes you. And it should!


Luckily, your 8th graders are excellent at engaging in discussions about what humans in the past did wrong and how we, as a society, need to be better moving forward. They are bombarded with more misinformation than we ever were growing up. In the same survey mentioned above, over half of young people reported seeing the Nazi symbol in social media posts, and nearly half reported seeing posts about Holocaust denial. Similar misinformation can be seen on social media pushing forward a false narrative about the Civil War and Reconstruction and the race-based American institution of slavery that was codified into American laws. But, because your students are so readily able to engage with the horrors of our past, since they’re quickly developing the ability to look critically at false information they see online and peddled by bad actors, we have no doubt they’ll be ready to stand up to bad information and combat it. They certainly won’t be influenced by it. They inspire us, their teachers, that there is the possibility for a brighter future guided by their hands, their hearts, and their minds. 


After exiting the museum, the kids reflected on what they’d seen—


Eli:  the exhibit on Americans and the Holocaust stuck with me. Seeing that there was a debate about what was going on and if we should help or not is something I didn’t know a lot about. 


Sasha:  I could watch the videos or even look at some of the photos. 


Ezeh:  I knew it was bad but not that bad. There were so many ghettos where people were separated at first and then later many were massacred. 


Cyrus:  The videos of bulldozers pushing dead bodies into mass graves was ridiculous. Hard to imagine someone killing all those people. 


Harper:  It all felt overwhelming. There was so much to be sad about. 


Nolan:  What stood out to me was the exhibit on Nazi experiments. Why would people do that to other people?!


In English, the students will circle back to the causes and effects of the Holocaust as they begin their novel study on Night by Elie Wiesel next semester. Students will continue to answer essential questions about the individual and identity as we learn about Elie and all he endures. 


After finishing our debrief, we went to L’Enfant Plaza for lunch. Our plan was to eat in the cafeteria of the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI), but unfortunately, it was closed for renovations. The kids didn’t seem to mind, however, since there isn’t a Starbucks in the NMAI and there was at L’Enfant. 


As we boarded the bus to head to the NMAI, Jack realized he left his bag behind. One of the Close Up guides went with him to retrieve it. Building security had already collected it and put it in their lost and found, but proving the backpack was quite a long process. While the students on the bus waited for him to return, they started making up a rap song about what was taking so long. It’s amazing how, without their phones, they tap into their own creativity to keep entertained. 


Once Jack returned with his backpack, we departed for the NMAI to explore its exhibits, which luckily remained open. The NMAI is part of the Smithsonian Institution and opened on the National Mall in 2004. Designed by First Nations architects from Canada, it houses over 825,000 objects related to the diversity and history of Native American culture across the North American continent. Exhibits on several floors showcase artifacts like pottery, ivory carvings, and beadwork along with contemporary Native art, and the top floor houses exhibits on the history of European contact with Native Americans from its beginnings.


Students started on the top floor, in order to complete an assignment Mr. Brannan made for them as they moved through the exhibit on the policy of Indian Removal and how various tribes resisted this process. To Brannan’s delight, the students really engaged in the assignment he made for them to complete, which will help enrich the lessons on early American history they will complete upon returning to WNS. 


After the NMAI, we went to a community action seminar where Youth Service America’s Katie Reusch spoke to us about how young people just like them are actively volunteering and creating change in their communities and how they can do so as well. Luckily, through the SPLASH and SWIM projects and their wonderful parents, your kids certainly know a lot about volunteering and giving back to their communities. Youth Service America, however, does more than educate. It provides logistics, funding, and scholarships for students who have identified an issue in their community and have come up with an actionable plan to address that issue. It’s an organization worth checking out. 


Here’s a bit of what your kids talked about during the seminar— 

Izzie, Lila, and Raven shared their volunteer experiences. 

Our facilitator asked our students what their Spark is and these were some of the responses: 

Maddie: music, singing, acting, musicals, and writing songs, after she said it she looked at Mr. Nate 

Aubrey: sports and making people laugh

Rishi: music, art, and making people laugh

Gabriel: video games

Lila: playing the guitar

Elijah: life below the water

Claire: neurodiversity and helping others with neurodiversity with socializing 

Our next stop was Lafayette Park, located directly between the White House and Black Lives Matter Plaza. Upon arriving in the park, students broke into workshop groups where they discussed Lafayette Park’s unique history with Americans expressing their First Amendment rights. On the very ground they stood, Americans—from Women’s Suffrage to Black Lives Matter protestors—not only expressed this right but fought to protect it over the years. If you look in the photo folder, you’ll also find a group photo we took in the park with the White House in the background. 


After our group photo, students were given free time to explore the park and walk up to the fence surrounding the White House grounds. Then, the music started. Soon, WNS was creating its own dance floor right in front of the White House. We’d like to think we gave Joe Biden and his staff a little chuckle as they walked past the windows. After our dance party concluded, students returned to their workshop groups to walk through Black Lives Matter Plaza before circling back around to our bus to head to Dupont Circle for dinner. 


Once we got off the bus, students were given directions about where they could and could not go and were told to go find something healthy to eat. The chaperones dispersed as well and Mr. Brannan was given the task to stop by CVS to get thank you cards for our tour and bus drivers. Upon entering, he saw half the students in the candy aisle. When they saw him, they scattered like cockroaches when a light turns on. He’s pretty sure they still made out with half the sugar supply of Dupont Circle. 


After dinner, we made it to the Kennedy Center just in time to see some fireworks. Why were there fireworks? Maybe for WNS’ last night in DC! It’s as good a guess as any. After taking in the fireworks and the view from the Kennedy Center roof, we settled into our seats to watch “Shear Madness.”


The kids had a blast watching the play. They had such fun trying to solve the interactive murder mystery, and many of them were quite perceptive picking up on the clues . . . the ridiculous clues. How much they influenced the outcome of the play, we’re not sure, but the majority of them cheered at the final reveal . . . as is to be expected, we suppose.


And that wraps up things up for today! Tonight is our final night in DC, but we still have a busy day tomorrow before our cross-country flight back home. In the morning, we’ll visit Mount Vernon before going to Old Town Alexandria for lunch. Then, we’ll stop by the Udvar Hazy Center on our way to Dulles to board United Airlines Flight #1488 (track it!).


See you tomorrow night 8th Grade Parents,


The Chaperones

Washington DC 2023-24 – Day 4

By | DC 23-24

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

Washington DC 2023-24 – Day 3

By | DC 23-24

Washington D.C. 2023-24

– Mr. Brannan & the 8th Grade Chaperones


The girls may have gotten a little overconfident about timeliness from being up on time yesterday. As Mrs. Rod sat at a chair in the hallway, the conversation overheard in the rooms made it clear breakfast was not happening at 8am – “I am so tired. We can be a little late for breakfast.” “Ugh, I don’t have time to do my hair!”


On the boys’ side, waking up and being ready for the day was better than yesterday. Of course, the bar was set pretty low. Most rooms were still late to breakfast and one of them will be handing Mr. Brannan their TV remote for the night.


While Mr. Brannan was waiting on the final boys’ room to get ready, he heard an alarm go off in Liam, Jaxon, Eli, and Ollie’s room. It was set an hour later than the suggested wake-up time, but at least an attempt was made. Or, as Mr. Zacuto would put it, they haven’t quite figured out how to properly use an alarm clock . . . yet. Of course, that squiggly line feels like a long road as you stand in an empty hotel hallway, knocking on that last boys’ room door that still isn’t ready as breakfast time ticks away.


After breakfast, our first stop of the day was the US Air Force Memorial. The spires of the memorial reach over 400 feet into the sky. The spires take on the shape of the contrails in a “bomb burst” maneuver, only the fourth contrail isn’t present to symbolize a missing pilot, the reason for the memorial’s construction.


In what has become an annual tradition, Mr. Brannan wandered between groups of students casually mentioning that the Air Force Memorial was built for Goose from Top Gun. Maybe it was because it was early in the morning, but no student really pushed back on this falsehood, except Evan. Good for you Evan. Always look skeptically at your source of information until you can corroborate the information presented to you. (This last point will be drilled home in social studies this year. I guess we’ll call Mr. Brannan’s shenanigans lesson one.)


Our next stop was the African American Museum of History and Culture (AAMHC). The museum houses over 36,000 artifacts related to African American history. The museum’s meticulously curated exhibits chronicle the African American experience, from the dark days of enslavement to their fight for civil rights to the vibrant tapestry of contemporary African American culture. It serves as a space for reflection, education, and healing, fostering a deeper understanding and appreciation of African American heritage and culture and its enduring impact on the fabric of American society.


A nice, intended benefit of moving the 8th grade DC Trip to the fall was to be able to navigate museums and monuments without having to fight through cumbersome crowds. For the first time since running the trip, our group got straight into the AAMHC without waiting. We also had the opportunity to take our time as we moved through the exhibits without being moved through it more quickly than we’d like to accommodate the crowds. Each exhibit in the museum was also accessible, as there were no long lines deterring the students from experiencing what they wanted to learn about and see. 


Upon exiting the museum, students were asked to reflect on the exhibits they saw. Here’s a sampling of what they had to say:


Christina:  The story and life of Emmett Till was really sad and seeing his mom crying really affected me. I found inspiration that his story is used as a call to action to continue the fight for equal rights. 


Konner & Maximus:  The train car was powerful with the voices of what conversations were like back during segregation. The conversations in the white section seemed free. The conversations in the Black car showed how much Black people had to watch their back in the south because the laws were against them. 


Jack:  I liked the interactive part of the music exhibit on the upper floors. It was fun to make my own beats. 


Dylan:  The sports section was amazing. They had such cool memorabilia. 


Shiloh:  The Emmett Till exhibit was so sad but it was incredibly powerful. Same with the lunch counter exhibit showing the sit-ins and Freedom Riders. 


Mrs. Rod dropped in on a conversation between Bennett, Dylan, Jack, and Gabe. They had chosen the question: “What works of art, literature, music, or media were created to help African American voices be heard? What ideas did they share?” In the discussion, Bennett noted how  African Americans worked hard to show the world that their music is to be listened to and can show lots of emotions. Dylan made the connection that African American music also was a form of protest, and Jack and Gabe agreed that the music and literary works produced helped show the world the need to take a stand against racism.


Additionally, Liam and Ollie proudly procured some incredibly large pencils in the museum gift shop, which they enjoyed sharpening. We hope to see them use these for their learning guides this week. 


After our reflection, we hopped on the buses to head to lunch. We were dropped off at the African American Civil War Memorial before walking over to Ben’s Chili Bowl on U Street, a fitting place to have lunch after spending our morning at the NMAAHC. Ben’s Chili Bowl is more than a place to grab a quick lunch or indulge in a late-night snack. As the kids settled into their seats, they were served chili cheese fries, chili burgers, half smokes, and an assortment of other items that Mr. Zacuto will ask them to describe in detail upon their return to WNS, so he can live vicariously through their food experiences. While they ate, a video played informing them of the unique history of Ben’s. They learned about the role it played as a safe haven for protestors during the ‘68 riots after Dr. King’s assassination and its role during the rise of the DC Go-Go music scene and the Don’t Mute DC Movement (#makegogoforever). From Jimmy Fallon to Barack Obama, the kids also enjoyed seeing the various celebrities and dignitaries who have visited Ben’s over the years. Here are some of their reviews:


Rishi: Ben’s Chili Bowl was the most goated restaurant I’ve gone to all year. I’m probably not going to forget it was actually good food and fun. 10 out 10, 5 star restaurant.


Ben: Ben’s Chili Bowl was amazing also named after me, 10 out of 10. The energy in the room was just fun, and made the day better. 


Evan: I really liked that there was food right after we sat down, liked the vibes, would go again for the fries. 10 out 10. 


Izzy: The food was really good, but I’m scared about the potential repercussions. It was a HEAVY meal. Rating TBD depending on the events of the next 24hrs. 


After Ben’s, we returned to the African American Civil War Memorial where a gentleman wearing a Union soldier uniform gave the students an impromptu lesson on the Emancipation Proclamation, the experience of the 200,000+ Black troops who fought during the Civil War, the spy network that Harriet Tubman worked, and much more. While this wasn’t a planned part of the itinerary, many students eagerly jumped at the opportunity to learn more about his part of US History. 


Vince:  I learned about some of what was said by watching the movie Glory, but I learned even more facts and information. 


Lila B:  I’d been to so many of the places that he mentioned where Black regiments were recruited or fought. It was interesting to learn there was more history in those places than I knew about before. 


Next, we went to The Smithsonian exploration. On the way there, students were eager to know more about our state’s appointee being sworn into the senate, Ms. Butler. She was sworn into office today at The Capitol by our Vice President, Kamala Harris. It is a historic moment. They waved and cheered toward the capitol building on our drive to the Smithsonian. 


Our first stop was the Natural History Museum as a group before students were given the choice to go view the National Gallery of Art (NGA) or the National Museum of American History (NMAH). The Natural History Museum is always a hit, and this year was no exception. Some students wandered the dinosaur hall. Some viewed the wing on underwater life. But, one part of the museum attracted every student like a moth to a flame:  the museum gift shop.


The gift shops at the NGA and the NMAH didn’t receive the same amount of attention. Perhaps the students were too enamored in the exhibits at the museums they were interested in visiting. Perhaps they weren’t as interested in what those gift shops had to offer. Or, perhaps they are running low on funds. It’s only Tuesday. Hopefully, it’s not the latter.


Here are two comments on our Smithsonian exploration:


Caroline on the NGA:  It was really cool and I liked all the art and sculpting. I loved how many rooms there were and the variety.


Ralphy on the NMAH:  I feel like I need to write an apology letter to enter. They have a whole wing on their grievances with Britain, and a giant flag displayed from the War of 1812.


After our museum exploration, we hopped on the bus to head to Georgetown. On the way, the Close Up guides told our students about the neighborhood’s history and told them where they could eat. Once they were done, the students started their own conversations:


Izzy:  Mr Brannan look up a picture of a chickpea on your phone. They don’t know what a chickpea is. . . . See that’s a chickpea!


Ezeh:  That’s a donut hole! 


Izzy:  Ugh . . . fine. Mr Brannan, look up a falafel.


Tyler:  Why is it green on the inside? Eww!


Suffice it to say, Izzy wasn’t able to talk anyone into going to a Mediterranean restaurant tonight. 


While preparing to exit the bus in Georgetown, a student in the back asked, “Is there a Sephora? 


Our Close Up guide responded, “Yes,” to his immediate regret, as shrill screams of delight erupted up and down the aisles.


While the kids excitedly got off the bus to hopefully head to dinner (aka shop at Sephora or buy candy at CVS), Mr. Brannan helped Nolan and Lila B. meet up with family who live on the East Coast. It’s always nice facilitating reunions!

We ended our day with a group deliberation about the Second Amendment and gun reform policy options. Students respectfully debated on the “hotel” floor. Here are some of their arguments:

Jack:  You’ll have to make it harder to get, trust to give them firearms …a person should be able to help themselves before it’s too late, so if they have a firearm they should use it for self-defense. 

Raven:  Mistakes happen, children having accidents with guns, self-defense…there should be a warning shot. 

Liv:  I know that you’re not allowed to bring guns to airports, can’t legally bring them into public spaces. Only certain people should use it or can use it…I’m all for policy #1: the government should give money to states that have red flag laws. 

Dylan:  Policy #3 is the most necessary policy because if people are robbed they should be able to defend themselves. They need to be able to hold their ground.

Gabe:  Would you rather own a chainsaw or a flame thrower?

Cyrus:  I think people shouldn’t have the right at all because of current school shootings and other shootings that have affected so many families.

Ezeh:  The government should create safer policies around gun storage so children are less likely to cause accidental harm. 

Galli:  Guns should be confiscated and destroyed due to multiple tragedies that have happened recently and in the past.

Jackson:  There should be intense background checks when purchasing a fireman. 

Liam:  I think you either have guns or not. There’s no in-between. 

Ollie:  I think we should raise the age to buy guns because there are more accidents with younger people who have access to guns. 

Vince:  I believe less people should have guns. There needs to be more protections for everyone’s safety. 

Shiloh:  I feel like background checks aren’t always useful because there are easy ways around them. 

Nolan:  I think people should have a clean criminal record to be able to access a gun and it should be unloaded safely at home.

Sasha:  There are policies that may not allow some to buy guns which could put them in a bad situation if another purchased one from the black market and there’s no self-defense for individual ones. 

Violetta:  Ketchup belongs on everything. 

All insightful thoughts, comments, and discussions today; some are a bit more light-hearted than others. Nevertheless, we ended our day with all smiles and laughs. 


Tomorrow we will visit Capitol Hill, The National Archives, and The International Spy Museum. More soon to come. Stay tuned. 

Washington DC 2023-24 – Day 2

By | DC 23-24

Washington D.C. 2023-24

– Mr. Brannan & the 8th Grade Chaperones


Hello from DC! The morning here got off to a slow start . . . mostly for the boys. Mr Brannan needed an extra 30 minutes to wrangle all the boys out of their rooms and get them downstairs for breakfast. Who knew that it would take such coercing to get teenage boys to go eat food? These same boys are always so quick to let us know when our classes are over and it’s time for lunch or snack.


After breakfast, we boarded our buses to head to the FDR Memorial. On the way, the chaperones overheard a conversation between students comparing their bedtimes.






“Not till after the football game ended. And the soccer game. And then South Park. I’m not sure what time it was.”


We won’t include the names of those quoted above, mostly because if you’re a parent of the last one, you probably know who they are. 


Upon arrival at the FDR Memorial, students broke into workshop groups to discuss what a government should do for its citizens in need. They then had the opportunity to walk through the memorial designed by landscape architect Lawrence Halprin. Comprised of four outdoor spaces to represent FDR’s terms as president, the memorial incorporates many elements that can be experienced by people with disabilities. Students had fun discovering these elements, especially the braille lettering and cast iron faces that are meant to be touched. 


We then walked down to the MLK Memorial. Before entering the memorial plaza, students discussed what life was like before and after the Civil Rights Movement and what justice and the fight for justice looked like. Upon entering the plaza, students couldn’t help but turn their gaze upward at the magnificent sculpture of Dr King emerging from a stone mountain. This sculpture designed by Lei Yixin was famously inspired by one of Dr King’s many memorable quotes. Around the rest of the plaza, fourteen other memorable quotes of Dr King are inscribed, many of which caught the attention of your kiddos. 


Sloane:  I enjoyed the quote we learned about before entering the memorial space:  “I have the audacity to believe that people everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits.” I think this would make a big difference 


Izzy:  The quote, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that,” really stuck with me. It really defines his message of equality for all and the methods he used to try to achieve it. 


Bennett:  The one that stood out to me was, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” There is such truth to these words and power too, and he delivers such a big message in a single sentence.


After MLK, we hopped on the bus to view the Jefferson Memorial, with its iconic dome and stunning view of the Tidal Basin. Your kids had an insightful discussion about whether figures like Jefferson should be memorialized given their problematic pasts. Though we didn’t come to any definitive conclusions, we appreciated the chance to wrestle with these important ethical questions, and will bring this discussion back to the classroom at WNS.


After fruitful discussions at the morning memorial visits, we headed for a much-needed lunch at the Reagan Building. On the bus ride there, lunch vouchers were passed out that allowed students to receive a meal from a restaurant of their choice in the food court. They didn’t really understand this concept.


“You mean, we give them a piece of paper and they give us something for free?”


Even though they didn’t understand this (or see the link to paper money or make a connection to a particular FDR program), they were so happy to be able to walk up and down the food court, taking in their various options, before finally all deciding to go to Subway.


After scarfing down their subs, students quickly went to grab a few coveted items they saw on their walk toward the food court:  prime drinks and candy from the gift store. And grab them they did till there were barely any of these options left in stock in the entire store. Let it be known that in the year 2023, the day the gift shop in the Reagan Building basement went from the red to the black was Oct. 2nd.


Students who weren’t too busy depleting their cash reserves were drawn to Ms Scarlett who brought a yo-yo with her on the trip. She taught them a few tricks, which surprisingly kept them occupied and excited to get one of their own. (So much for trying to maintain those cash reserves!)


While your kids were preoccupied, Nate and Mrs Rod took a quick walk to a nearby Starbucks for critical chaperone reserves. Upon their return, the kids were very jealous. Lila B was the first to notice, followed by many shout-outs of “ARE YOU KIDDING ME!?” or “Can I have a sip?”


At Arlington National Cemetery, Violetta was visited by her grandma, aunt, and uncle. We also watched Sasha, Nolan, Liv, and Ezeh proudly bring the school for the Wreath Laying Ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. This is what they had to say after the experience: 


Sasha:  I was nervous at first till the guard broke character, like when he was giving us instructions, tripped over his words and smirked before getting serious again. Before that moment, I wondered if he just had a stern face all the time, even when he’d sleep!


Nolan:  The build-up was stressful. Once we got started, though, it wasn’t so bad.


Liv:  With all my friends there to cheer me on, it was hard to keep a straight face. I wanted to smile, but I knew I had to be serious.


Ezeh:  It was easy in the end.  (Quick aside from Mr Brannan:  Ezeh left one of his nice shoes at the hotel and forgot his belt. But, he never got flustered and still did great!)


After the Wreath Laying Ceremony ended, we departed for the National Portrait Gallery. To our surprise, the atrium of the gallery was filled up with enthusiastic stamp collectors awaiting the official release of the Ruth Bader Ginsberg Forever Stamp. While we weren’t allowed to watch the ceremony, a few of us snagged some merch that was freely handed out. As we headed upstairs to the portrait gallery, we were met with “The Four Justices,” the stunning painting of Justice O’Conner, Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and Kagan by Nelson Shanks. 


We also had time to head into the galleries. The Presidential Portrait exhibit was the clear favorite. A WNS fan favorite was seeing the incredible portrait of President Obama by contemporary artist, Kehinde Wiley. But many students also explored various exhibits. Some of the memorable artists were Rockwell, O’Keefe, Homer, and Cassatt.


For dinner, students were allowed to choose a place in Chinatown. Popular spots were: Chick-fil-A, Chipotle, and Shake Shack. The students were ecstatic about having dinner with their group of friends. Yes, I know. Somehow a Chinese food restaurant didn’t make the top three most-visited restaurants while we were in Chinatown.


After dinner, we ended our night at the World War II Memorial and Washington Monument. The World War II Memorial was designed with 56 pillars—one pillar for each US state and territory at the time of the war—and a pair of arches surrounding the fountain. 


At the Washington Monument, students stared up in awe of the 555-foot-tall monument. Meanwhile, Mrs. Rod and Raven had a spirited conversation about a book series they are both reading and looked for the nearest bookstore to procure Raven the next book in the series.


Once we returned back to the hotel, we debriefed as usual. We discussed what we did well and what we could improve upon as a group, and then the chaperones took a moment to remind students of the beautiful puberty journey they are on, and the critical need for hygiene including daily showers and deodorant. The boys were highly encouraged (or threatened) to get ready on time in the morning or risk their TV remote being taken away from their rooms. They better stop watching football and cartoons.


Lastly, we ended our night with a dance performance led by our incredible theatre arts teacher! This dance was inspired by a TikTok video. Everyone enjoyed all the smiles and laughs before heading back to their hotel rooms. What a fun-filled day!


As for tomorrow, students get to look forward to visiting the U.S. Air Force Memorial, touring the National Museum of African American History and Culture, eating at the famous Ben’s Chili Bowl, and exploring the Natural History Museum before ending the night with a Georgetown Neighborhood exploration and dinner.

Washington DC 2023-24 – Day 1

By | DC 23-24

Washington D.C. 2023-24

– Mr. Brannan & the 8th Grade Chaperones


Despite being the earliest point in the year WNS 8th graders have embarked on their trip to Washington, DC, the start to the trip was the smoothest Mr Brannan has yet to experience. Everyone was on time, the passenger bus and the luggage bus got loaded quickly, and the students counted off by their assigned number (a way for the chaperones to quickly take attendance) efficiently. 

When we got to the airport, there were a few little hiccups. There was an overzealous traffic officer threatening to write tickets to the school buses. They didn’t in large part due to Nate mediating the situation rather calmly. We also were told that the group check-in counter that we arrived at was closed but the one at the opposite end of the terminal was open. But, none of this fazed your kids. They rolled with it.

How great! Mr Brannan thought. This group is listening, they’ve made a point to be on time, to be flexible if things don’t go quite according to plan. This will make things so easy because . . . 

His thought was interrupted by a question:  “Are we still going to have time to go buy things?” asked Ezeh whose question was followed by a barrage of others.

“Yeah, I want to get food.”

“I need snacks.”

“If there’s not time, can I buy things on the plane?”

And just like that, your attentive and calm kids turned into panicky, hungry creatures infected with a disease only spending money on snacks or toys or trinkets could cure. Despite the anxiety the countdown to our boarding time was causing, we were able to all get checked in, navigate security, and make it to our gate with enough time to allow students to go to the bathroom and fill up their water bottles. And, oh yeah, time to go spend money!

Things that were purchased:

  • Candy
  • Chips
  • Beef Jerky
  • Stuffed animals
  • More candy

When we boarded the plane, everyone was happy and made happier still when they saw the TVs in the back of every headrest. The chaperones were happy too. This meant the flight would be much quieter and tamer than if there was no entertainment on board. And it was. In fact, Mrs Rod received two separate compliments about how well-behaved your kids were!

Upon arrival in DC, we stepped into a madhouse at Dulles. Even walking single-file, we were brushing shoulders with other travelers. The first bathroom we passed had lines stretching around the corner. So did the next and the next. Eventually, we found a bathroom that could accommodate a 56-person school group. As Mr Brannan watched over a few bags outside the bathroom, two pilots walked by, commenting that they’d never seen the airport as crowded as it was at that moment. It was as if everyone left town anticipating a government shutdown only to have to rush back after a last-minute deal was reached. 

At the baggage claim, students volunteered to help get our baggage off the carousel. The volunteers quickly arranged into bag grabbers and runners. Luce became an expert at compiling the bag bins to clear off the carousel. Cyrus, Claire, Lila R (who was especially speedy . . . Ms. Reimann you might need to ask about track!), Rebecca, Ari, Kima, and Nolan (who also grabbed a bag for an older gentleman) got luggage to their peers in record time.

The bus ride was largely uneventful. Cyrus claimed the younger WNS kids lovingly call him Citrus. Tyler disagreed, saying if they loved him, they’d call him by his real name. 

Then, something called the Marshmallow Game sprung up in multiple seats. In fact, Goldie and Ruby even offered to teach Mr Brannan how to play. He passed. 

What’s the Marshmallow game, you ask? Any group of two people can do it. They go back and forth quickly sentence by sentence like this:

“One marshmallow. Check it out. Woo. Two marshmallow. Two marshmallow. Check it out. Check it out. Woo. Woo. Three marshmallow . . .” and so on. 

Pray for our sanity now. And Mr Brannan’s because he only held out on learning the game for a moment before buying in. He’s on it now and plans to get great at it!

At dinner, Ari shared how his mom asked if he had money this morning. When he said no, his Mom responded, ‘Grandma (who Ari will be seeing tomorrow) will give you some’. Next, chaperones were informed that Ben would likely be trying out for the school musical. With all the talk of parents, chaperones were confused to hear Ben Friedberg was trying out for the musical…we were quickly corrected by Ari, Beck, Lila, and Aubrey that they were talking about Ben Penny. Perhaps we are a little tired. 

After dinner, we boarded the bus again to head to the Pentagon 9/11 Memorial. Getting to visit at night is a truly memorable experience. While the memorial can be visited any time 24/7, at night, the cantilevers and reflection pools beneath them are dimly lit up, which adds an extra layer of serenity and somberness to the memorial. 

Once we returned to the hotel, we debriefed the day, “what went well and what didn’t,” led by Mrs. Rod. Students were reflective in sharing what they enjoyed, and what could be worked on. But they were most excited to hear their room assignments and seemed to relish in the idea of finally being able to enjoy some downtime. Each room was checked by the night guards, then checked by a chaperone, and given the morning wake-up time.

With  Monday Night Football on in most of the boys’ rooms, Mr Brannan and Nate are a little dubious they’ll find them raring to go in the morning. But they need to be! We have a packed day with visits to the FDR, MLK, and Jefferson Memorials in the morning, and a trip to Arlington National Cemetery where four students will participate in the Wreath-Laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier before we head to Chinatown for dinner.

Farewell for now,

The Chaperones

Washington DC 2023 – Day 6

By | DC Trip 2023

Washington D.C. 2023


We made it! Today was our final day in DC. At the end of breakfast, we carefully went over the timing and order for our modified schedule for the day (closing workshop, National Air and Space Museum, Library of Congress, the Supreme Court, then the airport) in order to make sure everything would run smoothly. Of course, if you’re reading this now, you’ve likely read about our previous days’ hiccups and modifications, and today would throw a few of those too. 

When we made our morning rounds to the rooms today, we didn’t know what to expect. We told the kids to pack last night and tidy up their rooms, but we half expected the majority of them to put it all off to the last minute. With a few exceptions, however, the rooms were decently tidy, and the kids were mostly packed. What a pleasant surprise! We did encourage the students to collectively pool a few small bills each to leave on the dresser for the cleaning crew. Lord knows they deserve it!

After breakfast, we had our closing workshop, where students discussed lots of the issues and policies they’d discussed after touring the various museums we’d seen on tour and after speaking with Rep. Schiff. Some students continued to discuss the importance of gun violence. Others discussed the importance of protecting our democracy. The majority focused on the environment. Gigi summed up the group’s thoughts well:  “There are many issues with the environment. If we don’t take care of the environment we will lose our food sources. Like if we pollute the ocean we won’t have fish; if we destroy plants the same thing will happen to other animals. We need to protect our planet, and that’s why it’s the most important issue.”

Next, we boarded the bus for the National Air and Space Museum. When we arrived, we were a little early for our reservation, so we walked across the street to one of DC’s newest memorials, dedicated to Dwight D. Eisenhower. Some students toured the memorial, looking at statues and quotes that reflected different stages of Eisenhower’s life and achievements. Some students played the Wordle. Others found an ice cream truck serving treats at 10:30 in the morning. The rest found a small patch of grass and decided it was time to play a game of touch football. Mr. Shipley and one of the Close Up guides took one team, and Mr. Brannan and Mr. Young took another. And it got intense! There were toe-touch catches on the sideline and the back of the endzone, but overall it was a lot of fun. Eisenhower played football when he attended West Point, so I’m sure he would have approved. Needless to say, by the time we left the memorial, no matter what the kids there did, they liked Ike.

After the football game ended with a last second Hail Mary (Was it a catch or was it not? It probably depends who you ask), we headed back to the National Air and Space Museum. What we saw was a massive line that extended down the block and across the street. But, it’s fine, right? We had reservations. Nope! That was the reservation line. It appeared to be overbooked from our eyes, and they didn’t even start letting people into the museum at the time of our reservation. So, we sadly had to move on, so that we’d have time to see some other sights.

Since we left the National Air and Space Museum without getting in, we decided to head to the Supreme Court prior to our trip to the Library of Congress, and at least that decision brought us some luck. Most of the time, the line to get into the Supreme Court is too long for groups to enter without waiting for a long, long time, but when we arrived, there wasn’t a line at all. So, we took a picture in front of the building and went inside where we peered inside the courtroom and took pictures next to statues of some notable Supreme Court justices.

After the Supreme Court, we headed to the Library of Congress. Many in DC consider the Library of Congress one of the most beautiful buildings in DC. As the largest library in the world, it stands as a place of knowledge and cultural preservation. The Main Reading Room always stops our students in their tracks when they see it. With its vast holdings, commitment to accessibility, and dedication to preserving the world’s cultural heritage, the Library of Congress stands as a true testament to the power of learning, the preservation of human history, and a statement that there is value in learning from the past. It’s Ms Reimann’s favorite place in DC, and for good reason! It was a nice final DC sight for us to visit.

We walked out of the Library of Congress at about 1:15pm and walked down Capitol Hill to our bus. We took in the final sights of the Capitol Building, the National Mall, and the Washington Monument. Our class trip to DC was over and we were off to the airport.

We saw a lot of sights on our six days in DC together, and it’s hard to pick out a favorite moment or a favorite place. But we asked a few of your kids to contribute their thoughts:

Bon: My favorite part about the trip was the baseball game because I had so much fun and made so many memories with my friends.

Lola: I liked the Holocaust Museum because it was an event that I didn’t know that much about before.

Kai: Wandering around freely in Georgetown (for dinner on Tuesday) was a highlight.

Lev: My biggest takeaway from the trip was the stories leading up to the holocaust and how it impacted the ending of the holocaust and ultimately World War II. 

Leah: My favorite part of the trip was the baseball game and the town explorations and all the free time we had. It was great for bonding with my classmates.

Noa: My favorite part of the DC trip was the Natural History Museum because I like seeing all the fossils.

Cooper: I will take home the stories of the holocaust survivors.

Zella:  My favorite thing was the Thomas Jefferson Memorial. It was so picturesque. I also enjoyed the Holocaust Memorial Museum because I not only learned about the event but also individuals who went through it.

Allison: My favorite part of the trip was going to the baseball game and yelling at people to start the wave!

Phoebe: My favorite part was going to the holocaust museum because it allowed me to understand the extent of World War II and learn more about the personal stories of the people who survived and perished.

Vishnu:  I liked the neighborhood explorations.

Matilda: I liked the baseball game and holocaust museum the best because I got to learn about individual people’s stories.

Nick: My favorite part of the trip was the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

And that’s it! That wraps up our time in DC. But, Mr Brannan was inspired to write one last small tribute to the WNS Class of 2023. If you’ve read this far, you might as well keep going. So, here it is:

While on the plane ride to DC this past Sunday, I was trying to drift to sleep listening to music when a Joni Mitchell classic, Both Sides Now, came on, a perfectly calming song to lull one to sleep. As her voice gently rose up above the guitar strums, however, I opened my eyes to look out the window, to see exactly what she was describing with her lyrics:

Rows and flows of angel hair

And ice cream castles in the air

And feather canyons everywhere

I’ve looked at clouds that way

My mind drifted to when I first visited Washington, DC, the summer after my 8th grade school year, about the same age as all the kids I was now accompanying on a trip to DC, many of them visiting the city for the first time, just as I once did.

Of course, this isn’t the first time I’ve made the trip with soon-to-be graduating middle schoolers, and as Joni Mitchell’s lyrics continued, I remembered back to last year when thunderstorms rolled across DC on the evening we planned to attend a baseball game:

But now they only block the sun

They rain and snow on everyone

As the song continues, Joni Mitchell sings about love and friendship, the wonders of the first time you see and experience something to the possibility that those things sour and turn bad. Thinking back on my experience as an 8th grader in DC, I remembered the bright-eyed wonder I felt, at the possibilities a government “of the people, by the people, for the people,” could accomplish.

As I grew older and learned more about US history in high school and college and followed the news and lived through triumphant and tragic historical events, it became harder to look at the US government with that same bright-eyed wonder. There was so much potential there, and it had accomplished so many great things, and it had fallen short and failed at so many others.

As I began teaching students US History, I taught my students that America could be a place where it is “self-evident that all men are created equal and endowed with certain unalienable Rights.” I taught them America could be a place its poets wrote, “Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed— / Let it be that great strong land of love / Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme / That any man be crushed by one above.”

Sadly, as has happened many times in America’s short history, however, it seemed to enter a downward cycle into violence and hate that exploded on the streets of cities around the country, and then onto the footsteps of the Capitol building . . . and then into the chamber floors of the heart of American democracy. I watched this unfold with some of his previous students a few years ago. They asked me questions over Zoom about what was happening, about what was going to happen. I didn’t have the answers. But it was still the American democratic process, and the same old process for some “(It never was America to me),” Langston Hughes, a poet who wrote the same verses in the paragraph above parenthetically included in his poem where those verses are from, “Let America Be America Again.” I could see it clearly from both sides now—to borrow from Joni Mitchell’s song—and that realization makes it easy to turn anyone into a cynic.

But, there’s something to Obama’s message of hope. It’s easy to be cynical about things. So, so, so easy. That’s why it’s important to have hope, to see possibilities of a better tomorrow.

In Joni Mitchell’s song she says “it’s life’s illusions [she] recalls,” indicating those are the memories she wants to cling to. I do, too. Seeing your kids in DC this week, as they toured their nation’s capital, their inquisitiveness about current events, their cutting questions they threw at Rep. Schiff, hinting at the need for change, fills me with hope.

As Robert F. Kennedy said, “Few will have the greatness to bend history itself; but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total of all those acts will be written the history of this generation.”

And I do hope, and I do believe, this is a generation of changemakers whose collective actions will make the world a better place. I see that in your kids, and because of that, I believe there will be a better tomorrow.

Your 8th grade chaperones

Washington DC 2023 – Day 5

By | DC Trip 2023

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

Washington DC 2023 – Day 4

By | DC Trip 2023

Washington D.C. 2023



Last night as we typed up this blog in Mr Brannan’s hotel room, Mr Shipley drew the short straw and was forced to go around to the boys’ rooms to help them clean up their spaces and pack away their dirty clothes. This was no small task either. As Mr Young was walking down the hallway last night, he noticed one of the boys’ rooms doors was open, and as he approached, he was hit with a funk. Now, we’d like to say it was a go-go music-type of funk the kids had picked up after their visit to Ben’s Chili Bowl yesterday, but this funk didn’t hit his ears, it hit his nostrils. And why was the room door open? Because those boys couldn’t even stand the smell themselves. They were trying to air out their room! 


So, we’re thankful for Mr Shipley for completing that task, even though he was forced into it. We hope that he’s not a shadow of himself today after what he saw and smelled last night.


Okay, onto Wednesday . . .


After breakfast, the kids were split into groups to deliberate a current issue being discussed in Congress:  gun policy in the US. Unlike in Congress, however, the discussions were more nuanced, they actually listened to what each other were saying, and they were willing to concede certain points based on facts. That’s not to say they agreed on everything, but it didn’t result in unnecessary bickering. One group’s passion for arguing even carried over into our next bus ride and our walk to the next stop. 


Here are some of their thoughts:


Wyatt:  Change is difficult. It doesn’t often happen immediately. It’ll be a long complicated process, especially if we try to make everyone happy. 


Gideon:  To end gun violence with an outright ban is necessary. Just because something is difficult doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it. 


Lily: Suicide and mass shootings are a big issue and gun control should take into account getting guns out of the hands of people who might take their own life and others. 


Charis: Guns should be for the armed forces only, leaving people who want to fend for themselves with stun guns, so there are no deaths.


Jessica: Stand your ground laws make the most sense, it prevents further issues from starting.


Levi: The government should be in charge of gun production and allow people to shoot at gun ranges that are approved by the government. Normal civilians should have access to rubber guns to lessen fatalities.


Caleb: I think guns should be illegal because of how high the kill count has been.


Jake: They should make sure you verify your age before selling guns.


Max: A federal background check is the best option to lower casualties.


Christian: Stand your ground laws have caused some problems throughout our nation. It creates more violence from what I have seen.


Riley: The first policy that should be passed is universal background checks but red flag laws are just as important. They go hand in hand.


Ava: Red Flag laws could help people with mental illness and can decrease things like suicide and self harm.


Liam: Background checks are great but might cost people more money in private sales and there needs to be an easy way for someone to get into the background check system.


Paige: I like that we were all able to have a voice in this simulation and that we were all able to speak for our group at least once.


After our deliberation, we boarded the bus for the Rayburn House Office Building where Rep. Adam Schiff set aside time from his day to speak with our students. His office confirmed in the morning he’d be available for ten minutes. He stayed for twenty. At first, he gave a broad overview to the students about his job and the laws they’d recently passed. Then, he allowed them to ask questions, even turning away his scheduler at one point to take more. 


The questions they asked him were about why he got into politics, gun violence, and broadly about other pressing issues facing America today. Rep. Schiff responded to each question with a measured response, taking particular time to talk about ways to address gun violence, protect American democracy, make the current economy work for the average person, and the necessity of protecting our environment. The kids listened to his words, and even if they all didn’t fully grasp how big of a deal it was to be having a dialogue with Rep. Schiff in the moment, we know that they’ll look back on this occasion and cherish the fact that they were given this opportunity. We’d like to extend a huge thank-you to Patrick Fischler, Lauren Bowles, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus for making this meeting possible!


After speaking with Rep. Schiff, we walked around the Capitol building so students could see the heart of American democracy. While we were still a little bummed we wouldn’t be getting a tour of the building, the students still looked up at the dome of the building with some wonder. It really is a cool and massive building to look up at in person.


After lunch, we headed to a Community Action Seminar where the students heard from a member of Youth Service America, a person who helps young people find their voice and launch projects on a large scale, similar to the ones our 8th graders completed on a small scale for their SWIM project. 


After her presentation, students were asked what are some reasons why they volunteer. They responded accordingly: 


Josh:  “When others are happy, I’ll be happy.”


Christian: “Being from a privileged background, I want to help those less privileged.” 


Jake: “I like to see the direct impact I can have.”


Jessica:  “Seeing issues that could be improved in the place where I live.“


Wyatt: “I like to volunteer because I like that warm feeling it gives me.”


After the YSA presentation, we all hopped back on the bus and made our way to the National Archives where there were original copies of the Declaration of Independence, Bill of Rights, and Constitution. Most were amazed and very excited with the exception of a couple who described them as, “old pieces of paper.” Though that was the main attraction, there were three other exhibits, namely one that featured sports memorabilia, like an original Green Bay Packers contract for $110 a game. Ironically (or maybe unironically), this captivated those most uninterested in our nation’s founding documents.


Our next stop on today’s schedule was the White House, and some students were also able to visit nearby Black Lives Matter Plaza. Students got some information about more recent events in these spaces and briefly discussed the importance of the right to protest in a democracy. This is, of course, another iconic place for photos, and students made good use of our time there.


At the Nationals Game students fed off the excitement of the chaperones. From yelling anytime Mr Shipley and Mr Young yelled toward the field, students seemed to be most entertained by all the food options available, specifically Dippin’ Dots ice cream. There was also a large following that grew for the Nationals left fielder, Lane Thomas, by some of our students. Later on we found out the following was only for the possibility that a ball might be thrown in our direction. Unfortunately, even with all the attempts, no ball was thrown our way.


After the 7th inning stretch, we decided to start the wave. We roped in some other school tour groups in the sections around us and soon we had nearly half the stadium joining along with us. But, each and every time, the wave stopped in the section where the Nationals Champions Club resides. Our only conclusion:  there’s no heart of a champion in that club anymore. The Nationals fans just don’t have it. 


Tomorrow, we will visit Mount Vernon and explore and eat lunch in Old Town Alexandria. In the afternoon, we’ll head to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, followed by reflection and some downtime at the National Mall with games led by Mr Shipley. Dinner will take place in Chinatown, and night memorial visits will end our busy Thursday, and last full day in DC.

Your 8th grade chaperones

Washington DC 2023 – Day 3

By | DC Trip 2023

Washington D.C. 2023



Hello from DC on the 79th anniversary of D-Day. Prior to the invasion of Normandy, General Dwight D. Eisenhower gave a famous speech in which he told the troops, “The eyes of the world are upon you.”


Similarly, each morning we tell your kids before we head out to the sites, “The eyes of your teachers are upon you.”


Like with other major US events, a speech was written in the event of a worst case scenario. In this speech that luckily never had to be given, Eisenhower wrote, “My decision to attack at this time and place was based upon the best information available. The troops, the air, and the Navy did all that Bravery and devotion to duty could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt it is mine alone.” 


From what I understand, Ms Reimann also has an email ready to send in case your kids get maniacally hopped-up on too much sugar and hijack the tour from the chaperones! We’re just kidding, of course, your kids are lovely young people who would never do such a thing. We are worried about their sugar consumption at times, though. 


After a hearty breakfast, our first stop of the day was the Air Force Memorial. The spires of the memorial reach over 400 feet into the sky and look quite impressive, towering over the city beneath them. The spires take on the shape of the contrails in a “bomb burst” maneuver, the specialty of the Thunderbird demonstration squadron, only the fourth contrail isn’t present to symbolize a missing pilot, the reason for the memorial’s construction and a maneuver sometimes performed at funerals. 


The Air Force Memorial overlooks the Pentagon, and students were able to see where one of the hijacked planes crashed into it on 9/11, our last stop this evening, which provides a nice bookend for the day. 


Last year, Mr Brannan decided it would be fun to tell the students the memorial was built for Goose from Top Gun. Most of last year’s kiddos readily believed that fib. This year’s class was more discerning. Perhaps they paid more attention during his lessons about disinformation . . . or maybe they just have less trust in what he tells them. He’s taking it as a win either way. He is a source of information after all and shouldn’t be the only one they rely on for what is and isn’t a fact. 


We then made our way to Arlington National Cemetery, which holds a profound significance as the final resting place for over 440,000 military veterans and their families, including notable figures such as President John F. Kennedy and other prominent public servants. As students walked among the rows of meticulously maintained tombstones, they were enveloped in an atmosphere of solemnity and reverence. A few gunshot salutes rang through the air, reminding everyone that Arlington remains an active burial ground. There are roughly 28 burials performed there each weekday. 


During our time at Arlington, we had the special opportunity for both Josh and Jackson to see their great-grandfather’s and grandfather’s tombs, respectively. Both were very excited and were walking ahead of Mr Young. Little did the three know that this was going to be a mile hike to the tombstones, a two-mile hike uphill the whole way back to the groups which would take an hour and change to walk. As we made it to the first site, we were able to find Josh’s great-grandfather. We paid our respects, and it was an emotional moment for all three of us, particularly for Josh. Jackson and Mr Young then left Josh to have a moment while we sought the grave of Jackson’s grandfather. After initially searching in the wrong section, we were able to find his tombstone as well, which triggered another  understandably emotional moment. As we all met up at Jackson’s grandfather’s gravesite, we were able to see a color guard preparing for a funeral that was happening shortly. Many questions then flew from Josh and Jackson: “What are the guns for?” “Why is that other guy just standing there?” “Can we stay and watch the 21-gun salute?” After Mr Young answered a few, we started our long hike uphill to find our workshop group.


Partway through our tour of Arlington, Mr Brannan pulled aside Christian, Jessica, Maya Kate, and Levi to head to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and check in with the elite Sentinels of the 3rd Infantry US Regiment. When they arrived at the check-in location to receive their instructions, they saw a stern-faced guard with a rifle on his shoulder rhythmically and ceremonially walk past them and into the guard room. 


Uh oh, he looks intimidating, was clearly the first thought that popped into their minds, as Mr Brannan noticed their nervous chatter turned to complete silence. Once they met the guard, however, they found him very nice and friendly. He walked them through the ceremony and chatted with them about their visit to DC. After the ceremony, the guard disappeared back into his room. The kids even heard laughter and then another guard arrived with takeaway food, which they found amusing. This must’ve been the moment they realized those elite Sentinels are just regular people, too. 


By the way, the ceremony went flawlessly. Levi, Jessica, Christian, and Maya Kate were wonderful representatives of WNS, and we couldn’t be prouder of them. 


Here are our wreath layers’ thoughts on being part of the ceremony:


Christian— I was very happy to be able to try a new, really cool experience with this laying of the wreath. I didn’t really know what to expect going into this, but I had a lot of fun, and I’m glad that I was chosen for this.


Jessica— It was fun. I was a little bit nervous. I’m really happy I got the honor to do it, and it’s something I’ll never get to do again, a surreal, unique experience.


Levi— It was really cool getting to do something only a few people have done, like government officials and dignitaries. I was also proud to represent the Boy Scouts.


Maya Kate— I was honored to have been chosen for this opportunity to represent WNS during the Wreath Laying Ceremony.


Here are a few thoughts from their classmates who watched the ceremony:


Ché Thomas— That was really cool and powerful. We are super lucky to have been able to have them do that.


Ronan & Max— We were proud to promote the Boy Scouts by wearing our uniforms.


After Arlington, we headed to U Street to eat at the historic Ben’s Chili Bowl. Mr Zacuto told the new chaperones to prepare themselves to have their taste buds ignited and senses tantalized. As the students settled in in the back of the restaurant, they eagerly indulged in fries with chili and cheese available for their dipping pleasures. And the choices! Oh, the choices! They delighted in selecting either a sizzling half smoke or a juicy, flame-grilled burger, each bite bursting with succulent satisfaction.

But Ben’s Chili Bowl is more than just a place to satisfy our cravings; it is a hallowed ground steeped in historical significance. The air buzzed with intriguing stories as we learned about the pivotal role this iconic eatery played in the community and throughout the years. From the shadows of the past, we were transported to the moments that defined a generation—the haunting echoes of MLK’s assassination and the powerful movement of #dontmuteDC.

Arriving at the Smithsonians, the students were given four options from which to choose. The National Museum of American History (chaperoned by Ms Reimann), the National Museum of the American Indian (with Mr Brannan), the National Museum of Natural History (with Mr Young), and the National Gallery of Art (with Ms Youngblood and Mr Shipley). The overwhelming choice by students was to explore the Natural History Museum. A few students went to the Art Museum. A handful went to the American History Museum. And no student chose to explore the Museum of the American Indian.


The moment Mr Brannan found out no student would be joining him, we’re pretty sure we saw him starting to cry. Was he sad? Was he happy? We don’t know. He ran off to the Museum of the American Indian all alone before anyone could confirm. (It’s a great museum by the way and very quiet and peaceful there based on his experience this afternoon.)


After the Smithsonian exploration, we were off to Georgetown, where the kids were allowed to explore the neighborhood in groups without their chaperones. This was an opportunity for them to get some dinner as well. Surprisingly, we saw a few kids choosing to eat salads, though the majority still opted for pizza and ice cream. 


Finley’s brother also made the effort to meet her after work in Georgetown. He offered to show her around and take her to a local eating establishment. She chose Chipotle.


At the end of our Georgetown experience, we met in Georgetown Waterfront Park to celebrate Gigi’s birthday! Ms Reimann and Ms Youngblood made a run to Georgetown Cupcake and we sang happy birthday by the Potomac before chowing down on a wonderful assortment of cupcakes.


Next we hopped on the bus and headed out to visit a few monuments as the sun set over DC.

At the Einstein Memorial, the students were absolutely buzzing with excitement as they eagerly clambered onto the statue of the great Einstein himself. We couldn’t resist capturing the perfect picture to forever immortalize this incredible moment. Moving on, our adventure led us to the solemn yet awe-inspiring Pentagon 9/11 Memorial. As we approached, Gavin George, with a beaming smile on his face, was welcomed by his loving grandfather, making the experience even more poignant. The students, filled with a mixture of reverence and deep respect, gazed upon the mighty Pentagon, a symbol of resilience in the face of adversity.


Students throughout our time in DC have been very observant. Finley today shouted out, “I didn’t know there were state names on the top!” of the Lincoln Memorial. Then, Mr. Young posed a question: “Finley! Do you know why the states  are separated into two tiers?” This started a heated guessing game. Agustya said, “Isn’t it separated by the states that were colonies and those that were not.”  Dillon guessed, “Northern States and southern states” after some help from Mr. Brannan and our CloseUp guide. The students finally came up with the states that were part of the Union before the Civil War and after the Civil War.


After a long day, we made it back to our hotel and debriefed all the cool things we saw throughout the day. We also previewed our next day, where we unfortunately had to break some bad news. We received word from the Capitol that our tour had to be canceled due to a last-minute, important event. During the afternoon, Mr Brannan and the CloseUp staff scrambled to try to find a way to adjust the schedule in order to find a workaround, but nothing could be done. So, while that’s a bummer, we’re still excited to go to the steps of Congress tomorrow to meet with a Congressional representative and tour the Capitol Visitor Center Museum.


After lunch, we’ll participate in a Community Action Seminar where the students will connect with a local Youth Service Activist, then to the National Archives to see some of our Nation’s founding documents, and then we’ll round out the day with a baseball game at Nationals Park!

Your 8th grade chaperones