On June 14, Milbank Middle School students proved they can get to school at 5 a.m. All it takes is a little motivation. A group of 100 students, parents, and staff left MIlbank to catch a flight that day in Omaha. The flight would whisk them to our nation’s capital to start their five-day tour of Washington, D.C., and New York City.
Milbank Middle School teacher Bre Schwandt recapped the itinerary of the multi-state trip. She also calculated that the travelers walked about 70,500 steps – just under 40 miles!
Four chief experience officers from World Classroom guided the group from start to finish. Two local experts, John and Levi, met the Milbank group in DC. They started their visit at the Jefferson Memorial, which honors the third president’s ideals of beauty, science, learning, culture, and liberty. They viewed the FDR Memorial, also notable for its 31,269 granite stones – pink carnelian from South Dakota and gray from Minnesota. They also visited the MLK Memorial created by Chinese master sculptor Lei Yixin, who used 159 pieces of Chinese granite. They caught several glimpses of the Pentagon as they passed it on their route.
At the end of the day, the group relaxed by swimming in the pool at the Gaylord Hotel on the banks of the Potomac River.
On Day Two, the students and their chaperones were up early again. They ate breakfast and headed out to explore the sights of Arlington. At Arlington National Cemetery, they witnessed the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. They visited President William Howard Taft’s grave and the Eternal Flame of JFK. (It is believed that since the day it was lit in November 1963 by First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, the Eternal Flame has been snuffed out only two times. The flame is designed to reignite automatically, but in 1967, a deluge flooded a nearby transformer. The first time the flame was extinguished was when it was doused with Holy Water just 15 days after it was lit.)
They continued with a walking tour of Capitol Hill, checked out the Library of Congress, and visited the Washington Monument. Other highlights of the day included the White House, Ford Theatre, the Holocaust Memorial Museum, and Lafayette Square. The day ended with an evening tour of the Vietnam, World War II, and Korean War Veterans’ memorials and the Lincoln Monument.
The Milbank group then traveled to the US Capitol to meet with South Dakota senators John Thune and Mike Rounds.
Day Three began early again and took them back in time to the 1700s. The group visited Mount Vernon, the historic home of George and Martha Washington.
Then, they loaded up the bus, departed DC., and ate their lunch as they rolled toward the Big Apple. In New York City, they checked into their hotel in the financial district near Ground Zero. After a quick supper at a mall, they moved on to the One World Observatory – one of the tallest man-made structures in the Western Hemisphere. At One World, students saw the timeline of the building of the towers and enjoyed unobstructed and spectacular 360-degree views of New York’s iconic skyline.
Day 4 started with a visit to Wall Street and the sculpture “Charging Bull”. They also rode the ferry to view the Statue of Liberty. Following their ferry ride, they had lunch in a park and embarked on their first subway ride of the day. Students broke into groups to explore different restaurants on Broadway, and the Gershwin Theatre treated the group to the Broadway play, ‘Wicked’.
On their tour of the Central Park area, the group saw the Dakota Hotel, where John Lennon was shot. They also visited the Strawberry Fields memorial to Lennon and various other landmarks in the park.
Also on their list of famous sights were Billionaires Row, the Plaza Hotel and Rockefeller Center. To get to Times Square, they hopped on the subway and got off to shop in one of the busiest places they have probably ever been. Their last subway ride deposited them near their hotel.
On their final day in NYC, the group visited the 9/11 memorial and museum. According to Schwandt, it was an incredible experience for those who had experienced 9/11 in comparison to those for whom the day is history. They then headed to Wall Street to see the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the controversial ”Fearless Girl” statue, and the stock exchanges.
That night. the group said their goodbyes to NYC as they boarded a bus to the airport to catch their flight to the Twin Cities. From Minneapolis, their final bus ride returned them home to Milbank.