For the past ten years, each June, 8th grade history teacher, Kevin Fales, boards a charter bus with Jenison 8th graders to venture to the east coast to bring history to life, but to teach students so much more!
During his second year of teaching, Mr Fales was invited to join East Kentwood Middle School on their own East Coast Trip to get a feel for the experience and consider running a similar trip for Jenison. Now the trip averages 125 students each year and, along with twelve to fifteen school employees serving as chaperones, the trip is a mainstay for the 8th grade class.
This year, the 130 students will board the bus on Thursday, June 15 and head for their first stop: Niagara Falls. For most of the students, this will be their first experience outside of Michigan, let alone, outside of the country! The stop in Niagara Falls not only breaks up a long day of driving, but it allows students to begin to have their eyes opened to the wide world outside of West Michigan.
Day two finds the group in Boston visiting Fenway Park, Quincy Market, Faneuil Hall, and take a ride on the infamous Duck Tour where they will ride the “duck truck” into the Charles River. Of course, the group will also visit historic sites throughout the city, along the Freedom Trail.
From Boston, the students will travel to New York City and play the role of tourists and visit Central Park, Times Square, and Rockefeller Plaza. The next day they will visit the 9/11 Memorial, ride a double-decker bus around the city to learn history and fun facts and wrap up their time in the city with a boat ride on “The Beast” which will take them past the Statue of Liberty.
After their two-day whirlwind of NYC, the group will journey to Philadelphia to visit Constitution Center, Independence Hall where the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were both signed. “We’re standing in the room where George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson were all in.” They will also visit Thomas Jefferson’s apartment where he wrote the Declaration of Independence. To end their time in Philly, they will channel their inner-Rocky by running the steps at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
On the way home, the group will stop at Gettysburg and receive a guided tour of the field and experience the Cyclorama, a painting created in the late 1880s which measures 377 feet in circumstance and 42 feet high** and immerses the viewer in the battle itself.
The final stop on the way home is Hershey Park to enjoy the amusement park and celebrate the end of their trip.
Mr Fales says that there are multiple goals for the students: it’s an opportunity to leave home, to build relationships with fellow students, and to connect what they’ve learned in class to real-life history. “As they are getting ready to go to the high school, it’s time to learn for themselves, the trip provides a chance for self-discovery, learning to advocate for themselves and grow up a little bit.”
Thank you, Mr Fales and chaperones, for planning this trip each year and giving your time and energy for ensure our students have the best possible learning experience! Students, soak up every aspect of this experience and feel the wind beneath your newly spread wings!
*Photo courtesy of RMA Worldwide Chauffeured Transportation
**Courtesy of the Gettysburg Foundation