I have just returned from escorting Helen's class to Washington, DC. It was an amazing trip. Every girl was challenged in some way whether it was from having to negotiate with a metro employee over a fare card or from learning to read a map and lead the group across the city. We stayed at a Quaker Hostel where we ran into friends and met interesting people from all over the world.
I had fun planning this trip. My favorite day was at the monuments. We spent a long time at the Lincoln Memorial where we looked at maps and photographs tracing 150 years of challenges to the notions of equality. We all got shiny new Lincoln pennies to examine as a way to organize our thinking about both the statue of the man and the architecture of the monument.
At the Vietnam Memorial, the art teacher and I combined our knowledge of sculpture and history to talk about memory. I gave the girls envelopes with soldiers' names. They found the soldiers, then opened the envelopes to find out that the soldiers were from our own hometowns. We made rubbings of the names and talked about the presence of the past. It was very moving.
In planning the trip, I tried to create an interdisciplinary experience that connected to their 8 years of Waldorf education. In addition to the American history connections, we explored literature at the Shakespeare Library, music at the Kennedy Center (where we heard a very talented young violinist), the evolution of knowledge and philosophy at the Library of Congress, and found many paintings they had studied or drawn at school at the National Gallery, the Hirschorn, and the Phillips Collection. We learned about government and met a young Legislative Assistant at our State Representative's office. We also attended evensong at the National Cathedral--a moving experience and touching end to our trip.
I also worked at continuing the Waldorf approach of inbreath and outbreath through each day. This was quite difficult to figure out as there was just so much to take in (and, in retrospect, this is where I could have improved the trip). In addition to just stopping and allowing the girls to roll about like puppies in the green grass (while it snowed in VT), we also journaled.
We carried our journals with us everywhere and sketched whenever we could. In addition, we spent an entire afternoon, an evening, and much of the train ride home adding to our journals, processing what we had learned and experienced. Without a doubt, it was one of the most important (and fun) components of our trip.
I brought gel pens, glue sticks, tape, scissors and watercolors. They used it all as they poured through their own drawings and writing, connecting it to other photographs and quotes they found in brochures. Their journals are works of art.
I shamelessly eavesdropped on conversations with parents to hear what they were enjoying. They particularly liked the THE OBAMA SIGHTING(!), Vietnam Memorial, the Hard Rock Cafe (of course!), the violin concert, and the art museums. This is a group of girls who truly love art (over half chose to go to a modern art museum for free choice time). Each girl had a favorite artist--Helen is newly in love with Mark Rothko's work after visiting the Rothko "chapel."
I'm exhausted, but pleased. Ten years ago I never would have imagined escorting a group of 13 year-old-girls on a week-long trip. I grew too, as I gained a new level of tolerance for GIGGLING and new ways to share my knowledge of history with young teens. The best part? My own daughter appreciated me. She was proud to have me along and I don't think I embarrassed her too much :).