Early this morning, we're talking 4:50 am kind of early, I met up with about 100 kids and teachers at the Indy airport. This would be the first year I helped chaperon the 8th grade field trip to Washington D.C. I had never been free to go on the trip before but with a free schedule and so many awesome kids going I couldn't pass up the opportunity.
The first surprise came right away. I was stationed in between the ticket counter and security to direct the kids where to go next. I thought I recognized a girl and her mom walking past but thought there could be no way it was her this early in the morning in Indiana. Luckily she was wearing her letter jacket with "Shephard" on the back so I yelled, "Anna?!" before it was too late. Anna and her mom turned around and it only took them a couple seconds to register that it was me. Long time members of the Camp Tecumseh family, Anna was one of my CILTs two summers ago. They're from Texas and had been here for a dance audition at Butler. I got to walk through security with them and catch up before we went on our separate flights.
Many of the kids coming on the trip have been my students and a whole crew of them are now Wyld Life kids. Basically I was going to get to be a Young Life leader, camp counselor and teacher for the next three days.
Have you ever flown on a plane full of 8th graders? It's quite the experience.
I enjoyed my vanilla latte while reading an advanced readers edition of Shauna Niequist's newest novel Bread & Wine during the flight. It didn't take long before we landed in the Baltimore airport and met out tour guide bus drivers.
Bus Leia was filled with 45 awesome kids. On our way to our first stop I taught them our bus cheer, a re-write of the Warrior cheer, an old CILT chant and the pledge of allegiance. I'm all about team spirit... and potholder headband making.
We went to Mt. Vernon first, home to George Washington's home.
They had reenactments all over the estate. We got to all try some ho cakes and try our hand at grinding corn.
We saw his final resting place...
and George Washington himself.
It was freezing out but we had plenty of energy to spare.
We couldn't touch them but we found some animals on the farm...
and chased down some more people to take our picture with...
and made friends with the man in charge of running the estate. Kaitlyn got to try on his hat and Ellie taught him about hand-hugging.
We took a tour of the whole house-- the library and office, nine guest rooms, formal dining room, the private Washington room, and kitchen.
We ate most of our meals in food courts where the kids could use their food ticket at any booth. Lunch was when we met up with the rest of our group that had flown into Baltimore a couple hours after us. Now we were an army of 150 yellow-bandanna-wearing kids.
Next we went to the Holocaust Museum, one of my very favorite places in DC. I'd been here once before and was excited to see the exhibits again.
We couldn't take pictures as we walked through but I'll never forget the tower of pictures, the train car, model of the gassing chambers and footage of that time. Our students have studied the Holocaust this year so it was perfect for them to get such a deeper idea of what went on.
Next up, the Smithsonian Museum of American History. I may have been a bit slap-happy at this point, so I ran around with this crew of kids looking for all sorts of cool stuff.
A Conestoga wagon! A big gold flag! A giant boat! A clock that plays 24 songs and shows the cycle of the moon!
Famous guitars! A wooden box! Japanese weed!
Elphaba's dress! A giant doll house! Kermit the frog!
Boxing gloves from Rocky! Spray painted speed skates! Ideas for clothing inventions!
A PURPLE WALL!
Harry Potter's cloak!
We all went just down the block to the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, home to the filming of the Night at the Museum.
Here we got to see the Hope diamond, an animal photo exhibit, the evolution of
Libey man, huge skeletons, an exhibit of birds and more.
Near the butterfly gardens we got to hold a giant grasshopper.
We ate dinner at a giant mall and I got to meet up with Krissy Roth, a SIB and an old Tecumseh counselor. It was so good to see her for a little while and introduce her to some of my students. I love Krissy's view of the world and how she goes after what she wants. That was one of the first things I noticed about her when I met her while she rushed. Years later she's still making it happen and spending time doing what she cares about. I'm so thankful for her friendship even when we're so far apart.
After dinner we toured some of the Monuments on a night walk. Since it was freezing it was more of a jump-off-the-bus-to-take-some-pictures-and-then-run-back-to-the-bus kind of walk.
I'd never been to see Thomas Jefferson before.
We went to the Lincoln next which looks down to the Washington.
It was here that Sarah Fitzpatrick showed up for my second camp reunion of the night. I got to introduce her to some of my kids too and Molly and Maddie wanted to take their picture with us.
We channeled our inner photographer to try to figure out how to take a non-blurry picture without the flash but still be able to see us and the monuments. It was a challenge but I think we did pretty good.
We went to Iwo Jima next but got better pictures with people than the monument itself. Fitz has been one of my best friends since 2005 because of the time and experiences we shared at Tecumseh. It's so hard to see one another now that we're living "grown up" lives so far apart. I'm so thankful that we got to sit on the steps and have real talk, show her Leia's cheer on the bus, laugh together and give one another advice in the short span we saw each other.
Have you met Jedi Master Brown? He's the brains behind the whole operation and our fearless leader.
We had bus karaoke on our way to our hotel. The kids got to choose their song and volunteer to come up front and sing over the speakers. Yet one more reason to love Junior High.
We went to bed shortly after arriving to the hotel. The teachers double-checked that everyone was in their rooms before we had a meeting and went to sleep ourselves. A security company with our tour has people that monitor the hallways all night to make sure no one leaves their rooms. After doing so much walking and exploring all day long we were wiped out.