by Pamela Erickson
On March 28, 2023, after months of fundraising, 154 eighth graders and 20 teacher and parent chaperones from Oakland’s Edna Brewer middle school boarded red-eye flights on two planes bound for the nation’s capital. It was the largest group of students to ever go on the trip, which explores many of the subjects and themes studied in their 8th grade U.S. history classes.
Upon arriving in Washington D.C., the group climbed aboard four different buses along with their guides from Education First (EF) Educational Tours and made their first of many stops at the National Mall. Students marveled at the beauty of the cherry trees in full bloom while touring national monuments and memorials, including the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, Washington Monument, and the WWII Memorial.
Over a five-day period and at an unflagging pace, students visited a myriad of historical sites, monuments, memorials, and museums in Washington D.C. and Virginia. In Virginia, students visited colonial Williamsburg, the Jamestown Settlement, and George Washington’s Mt. Vernon before returning to D.C. to visit additional historical sites and Smithsonian museums, including the National Museum of African American History and Culture, the National Museum of American History, and the National Museum of Natural History. While visiting Arlington National Cemetery students witnessed the changing of the guard ceremony. They also took a night tour of the Lincoln Memorial, Korean War Memorial, and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. On the last day, students visited the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and the National Air and Space Museum.
Eighth grader Inara Shafiq shared this reflection: “Our trip to D.C. and Virginia shed light on the historical injustices that indigenous and African American communities in particular have faced and taught me more about the people and groups who fought for freedom and justice, paving the way for a better tomorrow. I am extremely grateful to have gone on this trip.”
Eighth grader Myles Garadis wrote: “It’s a trip I will always remember. I learned so much while I was in D.C. and had lots of fun with my friends.”
Brewer History teacher, Michelle Ferrari said: “It made me proud to see the connections students made with their learning in the classroom, questioning themselves about whose history is being included and whose history could be better brought into the light, struggling with hard truths that challenge us to be a better, more inclusive nation.”
Pamela Erickson is the Executive Director of the Center for the Study of Law and Society at UC Berkeley School of Law. She lives in Oakland with her partner, Franco, two children: Luca and Siena, dog Pepé, and three hens: Bella, Cal, and Cupcake.