Sunday, April 25, 2010

See the Whitehouse in Washington D.C.


In June of 2009, Washington D.C. was host to a major teaching technology conference organized by ISTE. My school is involved in something called the "1-to-1 Laptop Project" in which each of my Junior High students have access to a personal laptop to enhance their learning. In the hopes of picking new ideas, tips, and lesson ideas, the Junior High teaching crew headed to Washington to attend the conference, and of course, see some of the sights!

The Lincoln Memorial from the opposite end of the Reflecting Pool

The conference was huge, with seminars, sessions, and over 5000 displays in the Grand Ballrooms! For us teachers, it was a positive and informative experience regarding technology use in the classroom. More importantly, our school won some free equipment in a few draws, and isn't the free stuff what conferences are all about?

Between sessions, my group was very focused in scheduling some sight-seeing and touring of the fascinating city of Washington, D.C. Because most tourist hot spots are very centralized in the city of Washington, we were able to view most of the things on our checklist by wandering about the downtown area by foot. In our very first evening in D.C., we saw the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial with the slightly scummy waters of the Reflecting Pool, the Vietnam War Memorial, the Whitehouse, and strolled along part of the length of the open, grassy area affectionately know as the Mall.

Excited to be standing in front of the Washington Monument

The second day of our visit, the group ducked out slightly early from the final session of the day. We did not 'skip out' to be lazy or as a rebellious act: being a group of teachers, we were determined to visit at least one of the famous museums belonging to the Smithsonian Institute. There are seventeen museums in Washington D.C. belonging to the Smithsonian, and they are invaluable sources of information, lesson plan ideas, and resources for teachers. Plus, they're pretty cool.

At the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in Washington DC

We went to the Museum of Natural History and checked out the displays of animals, precious gems (where I feasted my eyes on the gorgeous Hope Diamond), and the special exhibit about forensics and criminal science, where I picked up a free unit on forensics for my junior high students, whom I knew would be extremely interested in such a topic. After the museum closed at 5 p.m., the group walked to Capitol Hill and saw the capitol building. A few of us went further to the 'trendy' area of town and found a quaint pub that offered over 1000 types of beer, which was a total blast and I discovered a new passion for blueberry beer.

Checking out the Whitehouse

The next day, my technology session did what technology often does: it glitched out. The session was cancelled midway through, and then it was too late to join another. I made the best of the afternoon and hit the "International Spy Museum", not affiliated with the Smithsonian Institute, and meandered through the very excellent displays on my own. As you might have guessed, I am very much a museum type person, and hope to one day design my own museum exhibit, or work for the education programming sector of some large museum. The "International Spy Museum" was well-organized and very thorough. I had a great afternoon, and then returned to the convention center to meet up with my group. As a group, we navigated the metro system of Washington D.C. and found our own way to the Cemetery at Arlington. We joined a trolley tour and saw the graves of J.F.K. and Jackie O., as well as many other memorable stones and memorials.

J.F.K.'s grave site

On our final day in D.C., the sun was shining and beckoning for us to be outside. We made it through our sessions, and then decided not to attend the wrap-up social, instead opting to participate in one final round of exploring the city. We visited the Jefferson Memorial with its plethora of columns and the giant statue of Thomas Jefferson, then walked the length of the Roosevelt Memorial with its shimmering waterfalls and peaceful engravings upon the walls, stopped by Union Station, and even went out to the Iwo Jima War Memorial. We joined up with an evening "Washington by Moonlight" tour and saw some of the more famous sights glowing through a veil of rain: the Lincoln Memorial, Iwo Jima, and much more.

Dreaming of D.C.

Washington D.C. was indeed a beautiful city, bursting at the seams with history, memorials, and monuments, all lined with columns and garnished with fountains, pools, and flowers. I would highly suggest a visit to the nation's capitol... and bring your walking shoes!

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