R-2 eighth graders explore D.C., Virginia, Pennsylvania sights

By Roxie Murphy, Assistant Editor
Posted 6/19/24

BELLE — An annual eighth grade Washington D.C. trip was extended to nine days and made more affordable this year because of a grant from American Battlefield Trust, according to Tracey Auer, a …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

R-2 eighth graders explore D.C., Virginia, Pennsylvania sights


BELLE — An annual eighth grade Washington D.C. trip was extended to nine days and made more affordable this year because of a grant from American Battlefield Trust, according to Tracey Auer, a Maries County R-2 educator who co-sponsored the adventure.

Auer, along with former Maries R-2 educator Steve Vogt, took 25 students and 21 adults to more than 10 places in the Washington D.C. and Virginia areas.

“We left on May 25 and got back on June 2,” Auer said. “Its all eighth graders, some parents and sponsors.”

Students, parents and sponsors explored presidential homes, museums and historical places like Colonial Williamsburg.

“They really liked Monticello — Thomas Jefferson’s home, and getting to go there,” Auer said. “They really liked Fort McHenry where we got to put up the Flag that was flying when the Star Spangled Banner was written. Gettysburg is a highlight, and we have a really good guide who takes them around and teaches them about what goes on there. They had a big portion of time to go see whichever museums they wanted to in D.C. itself. A couple of kids were really excited to see the original Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.”

Students also saw Mount Vernon, a favorite as it’s George Washington’s house.

“He has a 16-sided barn they would use to grind grain with horses,” Auer said. “His house, garden areas, slave quarters. His innovative fences — when you look out over the hillside, you can’t see the fences because of the innovative way they were built.”

Students also visited Ford’s Theatre, also known as The Petersen House, named for the family who owned the property and boarding house at the time. The 911 Pentagon Memorial and Flight 93 Memorial were also on the list of sights.

“It was a favorite, but very somber place,” Auer said. “It was a very nice memorial and there were lots of questions about the ages of the people who were on Flight 93 — from 1 year-old to 93-years-old.”

In Virginia, students also visited Colonial Williamsburg.

“They do everything there the way they would have in the 1800s,” Auer said.

The battlefields were also a big part of the trip. Gettysburg and Valley Forge are always big sights to see.

“The Battlefield Trust, they are trying to save the battlefields,” Auer said about the group who assisted in funding the trip with a grant. “There’s land that was on battlefields that is lost every day to development. Their plan is to bring more awareness, and us bringing the kids to see it helps with that.”

The big battlefields that have been turned into national parks are trying to expand. But smaller battlefields are being lost.

“During George Washington’s time, 10 years after the battles, the fields went back to farmland — places like Gettysburg and Valley Forge,” Auer said. “Later, it was bought back by the state of Pennsylvania and turned into a national park.”

The American Battlefield Trust learned of the eighth grade trip and offered to assist with the grant.

“That is their goal, and they reached out to us and told us about this grant and said to write a certain number of thank you notes and send them the notes from the kids,” Auer said.

Students learned about several battlefields on the trip.

“Fort McHenry was under attack in the War of 1812 and became the place where our National Anthem was written when Francis Scott Key watched through the night and saw the stars and stripes were still flying the next morning,” Auer said. “Valley Forge was a winter encampment during the Revolutionary War. We learned about the cabins they built for themselves, how they cooked and learned to march, and how they became a more professional army than they were before because of some help from Baron Von Stueben.”


Gettysburg is considered to be the turning point in the Civil War.

“We were able to see the video, enjoy the Cyclorama, and the museum,” Auer said. “But the highlight of our time at Gettysburg was the step on guide, Jack, who took us to see the battlefield, the cannons, monuments, cemetery, and the town. He told us about the fishhook and how it worked to the advantage of the Union. He explained Pickett’s Charge and why it didn’t work. He also talked about war and how it always takes away good people.”

Additional sights the students saw were:

• Lincoln’s Boyhood Home

• Historic Jamestown

• Iwo Jima Memorial

• The U.S. Capitol

• The Whitehouse

• The National Cathedral

• The National Archives

• U.S. Holocaust Museum

• American History Museum

• Natural History Museum

• The Museum of the Bible

• Lincoln, Jefferson, Vietnam, Korean, Nurses, and WW2 Memorials

• Independence Hall

• Liberty Bell

“The American Battlefield Trust wants to raise awareness in adults and kids that these places are there and are part of our history,” Auer said. “In order not to repeat our history, we need to look back, see what happened and the reason for it and maybe move forward instead of backward.”