At the end of the long Michaelmas term, 17 sixth form pupils set off to Washington DC for a whistle-stop tour of a city filled with historical and political sights.

Upon arrival in the city, the group braced temperatures of -8C to see the National Christmas Tree and White House by night, including the early preparations for President Elect Trump’s inauguration. The following morning was equally as cold, meaning that a brisk pace around the city’s major monuments was appreciated. There was a slight delay at the WWII memorial, however, as we found a duck frozen into the water, and became involved in its rescue! Still, by lunchtime, there had been plenty of photo opportunities at the monuments to Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, and Martin Luther King, as well as time for reflection at the memorials to those who lost their lives in the Vietnam and Korean Wars.

The next stop was Ford’s Theatre, and an opportunity for the pupils to learn about the assassination of Lincoln and the legacy of one of America’s most famous presidents. It was the afternoon, however, that provided the most thought-provoking experience of the trip, as the group spent time in the National Holocaust Museum. The museum itself claims to be a question, rather than an answer, and certainly fulfilled this, as members of the group were left to reflect on what they had seen.

The next day provided yet another interesting weather experience, as a walk through freezing rain was undertaken to get to Capitol Hill. The tour of America’s legislature was well worth it though, and subsequent visits to the National Gallery of Art and the Air and Space Museum gave ample opportunity to dry off, and multiple opportunities for pupils to learn about ideas and events both on and off the syllabus. The final stop of the day at the International Spy Museum was a more light-hearted one, as members of the group were encouraged to learn tricks of the trade, and enjoy learning both about the real world of espionage and also how it is portrayed in James Bond films. This knowledge was then put to the test during a quiz evening in the hotel later, where the teachers just about managed to beat the pupil teams!

The final morning of the trip brought with it milder temperatures, meaning that the walk to the Newseum was a pleasant one. The museum itself was amazing, leaving many in the group stating it was the best museum they had ever been to. Pupils were encouraged to challenge many concepts, including the idea of freedom of speech, and the role of the press in reporting events such as 9/11 and the civil rights movement, amongst many others.

Huge thanks must go to the pupils for their interest and enthusiasm, and also to Dr Saxel and Mr Guppy for their energy and good nature in making the trip run as smoothly as it did.

Sarah Webb
Head of Politics