GALLIPOLIS — Ohio Valley Christian School students toured the nation’s capital earlier this spring.
The triennial field trip saw 32 members and parents of grades 10-12 visit a large number of notable buildings and sites in Washington, D.C. The group took an overnight bus and spent March 18-19 in the city. In conjunction with the student’s history and government classes, organizer and OVCS teacher Gina Tillis said class trips are special events for enriching the curriculum and bonding with classmates.
The Gallipolis private school, founded in 1977, beats state and national averages in many academic rankings. However, the school also aims for less concrete success with spiritual and civic goals.
“This trip lets us witness not just the beginning of American history, but see the government at work and understand how we benefit from the process,” Tillis said.
Students from Gallia, Meigs and Mason counties — and even other parts of West Virginia — attend kindergarten through 12th grade classes at OVCS. This was Tillis’s third trip, spaced evenly though nine years, which gives every matriculating student a chance to participate. She often organizes field trips, but gives special emphasis to this destination.
“For our students near graduation, they might not travel much later. This may be the only — and therefore critical — chance to go to the nation’s capital,’’ she said.
Making the most of their limited time, the tour group saw well over a dozen landmarks and museum in a 48-hour trip. Interest was evenly split between exhibits, building tours and memorial stops.
Early Friday morning’s itinerary commenced in the Library of Congress. The vast archive houses well over 158 million artifacts, of which a sizable portion are on display.
During what was his first visit to D.C., OVCS administrator Patrick O’Donnell took note of the vast book collection in the Jefferson Library.
Thomas Jefferson owned a great number of books, significant “especially considering the time in which he lived. The breadth of his inquiry was impressive!”
O’Donnell added it helped him understand how such a person played an integral role in the founding of the county.
The group then toured the U.S. Capitol building, which is under repairs to the dome but still open to the public. Citizens schedule tours online or through congressional offices, something the students made sure to secure ahead of time.
The Smithsonian Institution and its 19 museums and galleries captured the bulk of the afternoon, as students split into small chaperoned groups before rejoining.
Evening tours of the many memorials along the Capitol District stood out for the visitors.
“Seeing the war memorials on Friday night was my favorite part of the trip,” said sophomore Cori Hutchison.
“It is so easy to live in a free nation and begin to take it for granted, but to walk past thousands of names and the Wall of Stars at the World War II Memorial is a startling reminder,” said chaperone Janet Reed.
Saturday was equally full, with a rare tour of the White House’s East Wing (permission for the tour was granted only two weeks prior), historic Union Station, the National Archives, and of particular note to students, Arlington National Cemetery.
“I thoroughly enjoyed the changing of the guard,” said junior Rachel Sargent, adding that she respected how “the guards who watch over the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier are very serious about what they do.’’
Southeast Ohio is close enough to Washington that the 32 person strong tour group took an overnight charter bus. All the participants encourage American residents to make a similar trip, especially given the accessibility of the buildings, archives and memorials.
“I love having guest speakers, projects and field trips,” Tillis said, adding that she spends “as much time possible developing things that will give a real history or cultural experience.”
Junior Debbie Reed argued for the value of getting outside the classroom to experience sites first-hand.
“The capital shows how loved our country is. It is the heart of our country and has much of our nation’s history,” she said. “Visiting D.C. gives a better understanding of what our country has fought for and been through together.”