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Washington, DC - For the past few years, Maconaquah Middle School has given 8th-grade students the opportunity to experience the culture, tourism, and history of Washington D.C.

Last year, 8th grade U.S. History teacher Michael Sommers took over the job as 8th Grade D.C. Trip Sponsor. This year was his second year taking students on the trip, and he said he couldn’t be happier to have taken on such a great role.

“This is such a good experience for the students,” says Sommers. “It is one thing to read and learn about history and culture, but it is another thing to be able to experience it first hand.”

Last week, Sommers was able to take a group of 82 students and 21 chaperones on a three-day tour of the U.S. Capitol.

“My favorite part of the trip was watching the students as we took the evening tour of the memorials (Vietnam, Lincoln, WWII, and Korea). It was amazing to see how some of them reacted to the memorials and how some of them just ‘got it’,” said Sommers. “I also loved the trip in general because you could see both students and teachers in a different environment together. Building relationships with students when you only see them for 42 minutes a day is tough, so getting to spend several hours with them and talking about topics that we don't have time for in the normal school day is great. When we left on the bus Friday night to head home, one of my favorite things to do was just sit back and listen to the students talk about their favorite parts of the trip.”

Many of the students talked about the trip well into the week after returning on Saturday. The general consensus was that it was a trip they won’t forget, with many new experiences and lessons learned about our U.S. history.

“This experience was one of the best times ever!” said 8th-grade student Jacob Sayger. “My favorite part of the trip was going to the holocaust museum. There is so much history in that one museum. Going into it, I was not sure what to expect, but it turned out to be the best part of the whole trip. Overall I was so thankful that I was able to go to Washington D.C.”

With all of the positives about the trip, there is still that negative aspect of finances. “I would love for the number of students we take on the trip to grow,” said Sommers, “I know that even though I work really hard to get the lowest cost possible, that some families cannot afford it.”

Any student who wants to go on the trip must pay their own way. Unfortunately, the school does not have funding for this sort of expenditure. The hope is that they can eventually find outside funding in the form of grants or donations that might help more students afford to participate in this great experience.

Overall, the group of 103 seemed to really enjoy themselves and learned so much from this interactive experience outside of the classroom. Sommers said he is looking forward to 2020 and taking a new group of 8th-grade students to experience all that Washington D.C. has to offer.