School for Children 8th Grade Trip to Washington DCPosted by Katie Peshut on June 01, 2012
This year, the annual 13/14s trip to Washington D.C. took place from May 14-17. In addition to seeing all of the monuments, a performance of 1776 at Ford’s Theater, Georgetown, and many of the museums, the students met with several different political dignitaries. Here are a few highlights from their appointments:
- Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s discussion of why women make such effective leaders
- Adam Liptak, the New York Times Supreme Court correspondent, spoke about the long lasting impact of Bush v. Gore
- Congressman Eric Cantor’s response to one student’s question about faith and its role in governance
- Congresswoman Yvette Clarke spoke forcefully about the government’s responsibility to protect and support the poorest members of our society
- Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney’s earnest appeal to the students that they carve out room in their lives for doing service
- Ty Cobb, the Human Rights Campaign’s Senior Legislative Counsel, spoke about his role in helping to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell
- Meeting the former mayors of Trenton, NJ, Waco, TX, and Charlotte, NC through an organization called the U.S. Conference of Mayors, and hearing their stirring stories of leadership enacted on a local level
Ali McKersie, 13/14s Humanities Teacher, noted how deeply engaged the students were at every appointment and their poise when asking questions. Again and again, they heard the same feedback: “Wow! Are you sure these students aren’t really high school students in disguise?” They impressed the socks off of everyone they met!
The trip provided an opportunity for the students to see the federal government in action after studying it in depth during the school year. In the fall, students learn about the Constitution, interpretation, and precedent as they work as lawyers and justices in a series of mock Supreme Court cases. In the winter and spring, they study the legislative and executive branches of the U.S. Government, and the students participate in a several-month-long mock Congress, where they take on the roles of representatives, congressmen, witnesses testifying at hearings, and lobbyists.
By immersing themselves in these roles, the students’ understanding becomes deep and meaningful. Dramatic play is part of the social studies curriculum beginning in the 3s, and the 13/14s mock Supreme Court and mock Congress are the culmination of that curriculum. In fact, when SFC alumni return to Bank Street, they often talk about how the U.S. Government curriculum and the Washington DC trip had a profound impact on their lives.