Almost all of the Blanchard School’s eighth grade students got a chance to visit Washington D.C. last week, with a very special few getting a chance to honor America’s veterans in a very significant way.
A small group of Blanchard School students laid a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown inside Arlington National Cemetery, highlighting a three-day trip that provided real-world examples from the students’ lesson plans as well as things beyond the typical curriculum.
Since the annual trip’s inception seven years ago, it has been organized by Blanchard School Teacher Derek Parker, who will begin organizing next year’s trip next week and has been organizing this trip since last May.
“There’s a lot of excitement about it, we do a lot of preparation talking about what we’re going to see,” said Parker. “In the few days before we leave for the trip, there’s a lot of buzz leading up to it.”
Approximately 95 percent of the eighth grade class take the trip along with 18 teacher and several parent chaperones, but only a small, nearly anonymous handful get to undertake the wreath laying ceremony.
These students are chosen through a voluntary essay writing contest where students do not submit their names, but instead provide their thoughts on why laying the wreath would be important to them.
According to Parker, students who have family members who have served or are currently serving in the military generally get preference, but any student who can show the proper respect can be considered for the wreath laying ceremony, which occurs every half hour.
On the week of Memorial Day, students from the Stony Brook School will also take a trip to Washington to participate in the ceremony at the cemetery, as well as sightsee throughout the capital.