D.C. trip brings research, learning to life for Salk Middle School travelers

Special to the Star News

Lessons learned in the classroom are great but they can’t compete with seeing and experiencing those lessons in the real world.

So was the case for 73 students, parents and teachers from Salk Middle School who spent four days of their summer vacation touring the museums, memorials and historic sites of Washington, D.C.

Submitted photo  Teacher Ron Hustvedt and student Sam Kirscht at the Vietnam Wall Memorial taking a pencil rubbing of a name on behalf of Sam’s grandfather.
Submitted photo
Teacher Ron Hustvedt and student Sam Kirscht at the Vietnam Wall Memorial taking a pencil rubbing of a name on behalf of Sam’s grandfather.

“This trip really makes all the subjects of school come alive for students, not just history and government,” said Ron Hustvedt, Salk social studies teacher and coordinator of the D.C. trip. “Something that students learn is the interconnectedness between all the subjects of school — they might be separate classes, but in the real world everything comes together.”

This is the third time in five years that students from Salk have ventured to D.C. in June, but this year’s group of 73 was the largest.

Social Studies teacher Nicole Tripp served as the co-coordinator for the group.

“I was impressed by their maturity on the trip, the deep level of questions they asked everywhere we went and how seriously they took this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” she said.

Students who attended the trip had a lot of work to do before their adventure so that the learning opportunities were maximized. Students had to research each of the sites they visited prior to the trip and share that learning with each other in small groups.

Many of the students also interviewed family members to find any connections to the memorials dedicated to veterans, especially the Vietnam War Memorial known to many as “The Wall.”

“There are more than 58,000 names on that memorial and it’s always poignant when students can make a connection to at least one of the names through a family member or the family member of a classmate,” Hustvedt said.

More than a dozen students took a pencil-rubbing of a name off the wall that they were related toto bring home to share with their family. The group spent more time at the memorial than expected, Hustvedt said, “but the impromptu opportunity to reflect on the sacrifice made by so many made the trip extra special.”

Four students were selected to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in conjunction with the Changing of the Guard at Arlington National Cemetery.  Hannah Bies, Isabella Dusbabek, Lauren Holzem and Alicia Westover represented Salk Middle School and the entire community of Elk River by their participation in this solemn ceremony.

“It was an honor to be part of that and it really made me think about the sacrifices people have made for my freedom,” said Alicia Westover, 8th grade.

The group also visited memorials to the Korean War, World War II and 9/11 as well as the Smithsonian Museums for Air and Space, Natural History and American History. Other sites included the Newseum, Mount Vernon, Lincoln Memorial, U.S. Capitol, Library of Congress, Supreme Court and a hands-on CSI simulation at the Museum of Crime and Punishment.

Plans are already underway for a return visit to D.C. in 2015, Hustvedt said, and all incoming 6th and 7th grade students will be eligible to attend if interested. Photographs and video from this year’s trip can be found on Hustvedt’s school website www.RonHustvedt.com