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Classroom Meets Real Life for Seventh and Eighth-Grade Students in Washington, D.C. 

Whether it is Senegal, Bolivia, Paris, Washington, D.C., or one of several other locations, experiential learning is an important component of an education at Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School. Taking the students out of the four walls of the classroom and allowing them to forge new connections to the curriculum and the world around them is considered a rite of passage. In 2022, this opportunity was once again offered to seventh- and eighth-grade students at HIES. 

Every other year, Middle School students are presented an opportunity to partake on an experiential learning trip to Washington, D.C., that has the potential to broaden their horizons both academically and personally. This timely trip comes as their lessons are fresh in their minds and the students can see and experience up-close tangible artifacts and symbolism from some of the biggest events throughout global and national history. 

Bright and early at 5 a.m. on Tuesday, May 31, 39 HIES seventh- and eighth-grade students and their chaperones arrived at the Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson Airport to begin their trip. Led by Carrie Wheelus, Middle School History teacher, the five-day, four-night trip provided students with an in-depth tour of historical and educational landmarks throughout Washington, D.C. Planned with the company Grand Classroom, the students enjoyed an action-packed itinerary with their own expert tour guide and private tour bus throughout the trip. With important stops such as the White House, Capitol Hill, the Washington Monument, Arlington National Cemetery, the Smithsonian Museums, the United States Holocaust Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial and many others, the trip provided real-world application for the students who studied both World History and U.S. History as part of their Middle School curriculum at HIES. 

“They also get to see things that aren’t part of our curriculum, like the changing of the guard at Arlington National Cemetery,” Ms. Wheelus said. “It’s a really powerful thing to see in person. To allow the students that opportunity, it’s priceless. You can’t teach that in a classroom, so being able to have the opportunity to take them and show them and have them experience that in person, there’s nothing like it."

Students also enjoyed dinner at the famous Ben’s Chili Bowl, where in addition to receiving information about the civil rights movement and the significance of this small restaurant, they also received an impassioned lesson on making a difference in your life and had a dance-off with their server.

See more about their experiences in this video. 

Open to all current seventh- and eighth-grade students during the 2021-2022 academic year, the trip provided a chance for HIES students to experience important aspects of our country’s history and government beyond the classroom and connect lessons to real life. The students also formed deeper connections with fellow classmates and teachers that will last throughout the remainder of their time at HIES and beyond. 

“We read ‘Chasing Lincoln’s Killer’ in eighth grade, and I got to see Ford’s Theater,” Cate Wassenaar, rising freshman and trip attendee, said. “I was able to make that connection. I just spent two months learning about it and now I can go see it.”

Cate said that it was a good learning opportunity, an opportunity to hang out with her friends, travel, learn how to do things on their own, to try and move outside of her box and have fun.

The trip was cancelled in 2020 due to COVID-19 restrictions, however, the 2022 trip was able to be safely experienced without many COVID-related restrictions in place. The next trip will be available in spring 2024.