As our 6th graders get ready to set sail for Plymouth, MA later this week, an energy has settled into the air that comes only with the giddiness of 37 students preparing for an overnight trip. It might be the prospect of spending the evenings at the hotel water park, or the opportunity to spend nearly 48 hours straight with their classmates, but I would like to think the opportunity to immerse themselves into history in a tangible way is what has them bubbling with excitement. The trip to Plymouth is one way of linking our students to the events of the past. They read about the Mayflower’s journey across the Atlantic, the struggles of early settlement life, and the manner in which Indigenous People were unfairly displaced by European colonialization. However, walking the same paths as the early settlers, hearing the stories handed down from direct descendants of Wampanog Natives, and viewing the Mayflower’s cramped quarters speaks volumes more than words from a textbook.
I can see this transformation in the class discussions that have followed the 7th grader’s recent trip to Philadelphia, PA, where the students were able to walk in the steps of our nation’s Founding Fathers. By visiting the National Constitution Center, Independence Hall, City Tavern, Ben Franklin’s house, and Christ Church, the students were able to gain a deeper understanding of the gravity of the work of the foundation being established for future generations to come. Experiential learning forms pathways developing more flexible thinkers and problem solvers. This is what these trips are all about: bringing the story of the past to life in a tangible manner so that the next generation can gain a deeper understanding of all that has transpired to better inform the future.