Clapham Christian Classical School

Clapham Journal

Clapham School’s 2020 Washington DC Trip

Written by Heidi Thomason

A lot happens at Clapham that parents are not privy to, and the Washington D.C. Trip is just such an event. Fortunately parent volunteers can be our eyes and ears on the ground. One of these parent volunteers, Heidi Thomason, has graciously created a visual diary for those of us who were not able to share the Washington D.C. experience.

During early March 2020, the Clapham Middle School took a memorable trip to Washington D.C. We walked a whopping 45 miles as a group, enjoying the cherry blossom trees, beautiful spring-like weather, each other’s company, and of course all the sights and history that make Washington D.C. such an amazing experience!

The tour was led by Clapham School’s resident travel planner, Brian Kelly. Brian did a fantastic job—from planning and logistics to keeping us on schedule! But even he couldn’t pull off this trip without his trusted co-pilots, Dr. Egan, Dr. LeMahieu & Miranda Quinn! Thank you teachers for helping make this trip a success!

Clapham teacher, Brian Kelly, leading the tour.

Clapham teacher, Brian Kelly, leading the tour.

I so enjoyed being a chaperone on this trip and seeing the middle school students experience Washington D.C.—many for the first time. From our dinner on the first night at Bertucci’s Italian Restaurant until the last day at Arlington National Cemetery, every minute was full of activity.

Friday began with a visit to the Supreme Court. If there were ever a reason to feel inspired to go into law, this would be it. The building itself is breathtaking from the outside in. In addition to touring, we enjoyed a 30-minute talk inside the courtroom, which gave us an opportunity to hear and ask questions while gaining a better understanding of the legal system in America.  The Supreme Court is the higest court in the nation and is the final arbiter of the law.

Clapham Middle School visits the Supreme Court

Clapham Middle School visits the Supreme Court

Next we embarked on a guided tour of the Library of Congress. It was absolutely stunning inside: clearly no expense was spared in its creation. The Gutenberg Bible was definitely a highlight!

Ben Johnson pondering the history of the Guttenberg Bible.

A Class Six student pondering the history of the Guttenberg Bible

The Gutenberg Bible was printed in 1455 and is the first Bible printed with movable metal type. This Bible essentially introduced the printing press to the world.


The Library of Congress

Our days were packed to the brim and the tour of the White House came next. We were all very excited to see the place where our nation is governed from, and we saw … some of it.  We all agreed that we would have loved to see more than the few rooms open to the public, but we were thankful to be allowed inside at all.


The State Dining Room inside the White House

The State Dining Room is used for formal dinners and receptions.  It can seat 140 people!  A portait of Abraham Lincoln hangs above the fireplace.


The Green Room in the White House

The Green Room is a smaller parlor in the White House used for smaller receptions and teas.

After our visit to the White House, we also snuck in a quick visit to the Smithsonian National Museum of American History before we headed to the African American Cultural Museum.  Here is what the parent volunteers had to say:

“The African American Cultural Museum humbled and inspired us: it humbled us by showing us the cruelty we are capable of inflicting on each other…. It inspired us by showing us what courageous heights our minds, bodies, and spirits can achieve despite repression and cruelty.”

~ Chris Meyer

“I was profoundly moved in one day by the heights of human achievement at the Library of Congress (Friday morning) and the depths of human depravity at the African American History Museum (Friday afternoon). Within all of us lies the potential to write lofty works of literature and philosophy as well as the fallenness to enslave others.”

~ Dr. Egan

On Saturday, some of the early risers took a jog which included the Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument and Vietnam Memorial.  Here is 6th grade student, Alexia Escareno’s take on the early morning jog:

“It was refreshing to wake up and see memorials, reminding me of what my country has done for me!”

After breakfast, we visited the National Archives Museum. With a stop at Shake Shack on the way to the Capitol, the students arrived eager and ready to learn from our guided tour.  Students were introduced to the original copies of the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights.


Clapham students explore the Records of Rights Exhibit

The Record of Rights exhibit featured at 17 foot long interactive table that houses documents to illustrate how Americans have debated about, and fought for rights like free speech, religion, and equality.


The entire group on the steps of our nation’s Capitol Building

A highlight of the tour followed next, when we visited the the National Gallery of Art.  We were delighted to see the Degas at the Opera exhibition.  Class Six student, Sarah Pykkonen shares her experience:

“The art galleries were such a privilege and treat for me to see. Each work is overflowing with color, precision, detail, values, and the complete care and attention of the artist. Think how many millions of hours of work are displayed in those rooms! Having tried myself to produce masterpieces like these, I appreciate them all the more.”

The National Gallery

Saturday evening we walked as a group to see the Lincoln Memorial. It was striking!  The picture below says it all!


The Lincoln Memorial at night


Parent Volunteers taking in the views at the Lincoln Memorial

We also walked through the Vietnam Memorial that evening and it was very emotionally stirring for all of us.  The Vietnam Memorial honors service members of the U.S. Armed Forces who fought in the Vietnam War that lasted almost 20 years.  It also honors service members who died while serving in Vietnam and South Asia, and those service members who are unaccounted for during this war.  The high polished granite walls contain more that 58,000 names!  The design of the memorial represents a wound that is healing.


A Clapham student faces the wall of the Vietnam Memorial

Class Seven student, Sophia Pursley, had this to say about the Vietnam Memorial:

“Seeing so many names at the Vietnam Memorial helped me realize how fortunate we are to live in a free country… and that freedom isn’t free”.

~ Sophia Pursley

Parent Volunteer Rachel Zoeller added,

“For me one of the best part of the trip was observing a few of the men take a small group of boys through the Vietnam memorial. It was a great moment of respect and mentorship.”

~ Rachel Zoeller

Sunday was our last full day in D.C. We started the day with our daily breakfast routine (in the hotel Jefferson Room). Might I add that somewhere along the line, sliced bananas became a hit… seems as though one of the chaperones was overly excited about serving them, not naming any names…

We spent Sunday morning at the Air & Space Museum with some choosing to do guided tours and others choosing to step inside flight simulators for some fun.

Students enjoy an exhibit at the Air & Space Museum

Students enjoy an exhibit at the Air & Space Museum

Sunday afternoon we toured the Bible Museum. It was simply amazing! A whole building in the nation’s Capital is dedicated to the history of the Bible. The exhibits are full of artifacts, Bibles and amazing interactive experiences that bring the history of the Bible to life.

A student found his namesake stone at the Bible Museum

A student found his namesake stone at the Bible Museum

Some students shared their thoughts on the Bible Museum.

 “I like the Bible Museum, it was really fun and approachable.”

~ Asher Zoeller (Class Eight)

“I think the Bible Museum was soooo amazing, and it was amazing to see all of the new things and learn the history of the Bible!”

~ Ellie Stiernagle (Class Six)

We ended the evening with a pizza party back at the hotel Jefferson Room followed by one more night at the pool and playing games together.

Monday morning was our last day in Washinton D.C. The whole group took the subway to the Arlington National Cemetery. While there, we reflected humbly, and with a great sense of patriotism, as we saw the gravestones of those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for America’s freedom.  We were touched by the eternal flame on John F. Kennedy’s gravesite, and the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier made a lasting impression.

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

The students were deeply touched by this experience and shared these thoughts:

“The dedication put into this cemetery is fascinating and the fact that so many men and women gave up their lives. There are no words to explain the feeling. Thank you to everyone who has served, is serving, and will serve this country. I think the friendship and care everyone showed while at the Arlington National Cemetery really reflected the love we have for each other in the difficult and in the easy times. Thank you everyone who was a part of this experience.”

~ Aaron Escareno (Class Seven)

Cameraderie between students after a shared emotional experience.

Cameraderie between students after a shared emotional experience.

A view of Arlington Cemetary

A view of Arlington Cemetary

After the changing of the guard, we were introduced to a college friend of Clapham mom, Ashley Stiernagle, Lieutenant Colonel Haley, who serves in the United States Air Force. We were so moved standing by the gravesite of his two friends, buried together, as he told us about them; we each placed a “nickel on the grass” in their honor.

“The fact that we got to meet and learn from Lieutenant Col. Haley was so exciting. He said that every single grave held a valued person with their own story to tell. It gave us all a new honor for the people who have died serving our country. It was so cool also to see the changing of the guard, and how they handle soldiers known or unknown with such care.”

 ~ Aubrey Thomason (Class Six)

Lieutenant Colonel Haley

Lieutenant Colonel Haley

Parent volunteer, Kate Hinchee, shared this conversation she had with her daughter Megan (Class Seven):

“As we were walking along, seeing the vast number of headstones, I told her that this is what the cost of Freedom looks like. Freedom to worship, freedom of speech, freedom to vote. How quickly we take these freedoms for granted, and how sobering it is to see this memorial. Then to underscore it with Col. Haley and how each and every gravestone has a story. Each solider made in the image of God. Each one dying for a cause greater than himself.”

~ Kate Hinchee

I believe I speak on behalf of all the chaperones when I say we are each so grateful to have had this experience with our children and the entire middle school! I asked many students at the end of this trip if they were ready to return home, and they each emphatically said they wanted to stay longer. What an awesome gift this trip was, with memories to last a lifetime!
Ready to go home.

Ready to go home

Parent Volunteers Ashley Stiernagle, Kate Hinchee, Carolina Dalmas, Heidi Thomason and Rachel Zoeller.

Parent Volunteers Ashley Stiernagle, Kate Hinchee, Carolina Dalmas, Heidi Thomason and Rachel Zoeller (Left to Right)

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