Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Touching History: A field trip to the Newseum

One of the things that I love about living and teaching in the DC Metro area is the abundant choice of field trip destinations. Yesterday, we took our 3rd-5th grade ESOL students into downtown DC for visit to the Newseum. If you don't know about the Newseum, it is a fascinating museum dedicated to the history of the media in all its forms: newspaper, broadcast and radio.

First, let me say that my students do not often get to go on field trips, so this was a rare treat for them. They felt especially special because it was only for the ESOL students (this is not because we felt exclusionary, but because the trip was paid for with federal funds which can only be used for ESOL students).

Our visit to the Newseum started out with a 4-D movie. This means that not only was the movie in 3-D, but they had moving seats and wind and other effects. The kids loved this! I'm pretty sure that was their favorite part of the entire field trip (except for maybe going to the gift shop!). Here's a picture of the theater:

We spent the rest of the day wandering around and checking out the exhibits. There were lots of wonderful things to see, and I don't feel like I really got to see much because I was so busy herding 9 and 10-year-olds around. Here are my favorites:

The Berlin Wall and Guard Tower:

The 9/11 Exhibit:

The Unabomber's Cabin:

One of the things that really struck me was the realization that each of these events, which I remember vividly in my life, happened before most of my students were even born. While looking at the 9/11 exhibit, I asked my 4th graders how old they were, and one told me that her birthday was on September 6,  2001. That means she was five days old when 9/11 happened!

What a wonderful learning experience this was for these students, especially where 9/11 was concerned. That is not something that we yet cover in school or in history classes as part of the curriculum, so many students don't really know what it is all about. The museum also has a mini-theater in the 9/11 exhibit that shows some footage from that day, as well as interviews. For the only time during the entire day, the students were all quiet and focused on the video. They were so engaged and interested in this little piece of history. The 9/11 exhibit was a very emotional one for me to look at, because it really takes you back to that day and that moment, and the way you felt when you heard.

All in all, the kiddos learned a lot about the 1st ammendment and the media, and had a great time. They kept saying how it was "the best field trip ever". We're planning a zoo trip for the primary grades in the spring, so we'll see how that goes!

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