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STRI students see the sights and bond on recent trip to Washington, D.C.

Photo+courtesy+of+www.washingtondc.com
Photo courtesy of www.washingtondc.com

Photo courtesy of www.washingtondc.com

Photo courtesy of www.washingtondc.com

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In late March, sophomores and juniors from the Cape Henry Collegiate STRI class traveled to the nation’s capital for two days of learning, sightseeing, and group bonding as they prepare for their summer trip to Panama. Highlights of the trip included a behind the scenes tour of the National Zoo, walking around museums and exhibits, and traveling to Panama, or at least the Panamanian embassy.

The trip began at the ripe hour of 7:00a.m. in the CHC parking lot. Over 20 students and four faculty chaperones began the three hour trek to D.C. After seeing countless trees and a lot of cars, the scenery changed to tall apartment buildings with interspersed stone government buildings.

Anticipation began to rise.

Stopping the bus for the first time since departure, the group arrived at the National Zoo. Dr. Brian Gratwicke and Matt Evans, research and field scientists for the National Zoo, provided tours of the research being done in the labs and classrooms below the zoo.

“I didn’t know there were that many levels under the zoo,” Michael White commented, remarking on the zoo’s underground research facilities.

The students then broke into small groups to spend an hour walking the zoo before moving on to the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History.

After watching Night at the Museum 2 on the bus ride up, walking around the set of the movie was a fun experience for everyone.

With scenes from the movie taking life in their minds, the group decided to conquer the butterfly exhibit, where butterflies openly fly around and land on you as you walk through. For many people in the group, the experience gave an extended appreciation for an organism that is commonly seen.

The students moved throughout numerous exhibits in the museum before finding a local pub for dinner.

Tired from the day of travel and sightseeing, the group became invested in the international gymnastics competition playing on the televisions. It was interesting to watch high school sophomores and juniors groan and cheer as gymnasts swung and jumped on rings, poles, and mats. When the food and competition was complete, the group walked back to the hotel, laughing and making jokes about the events of their first day together.

With no surprise, the second day of the trip began with a coffee run. Coming down to the lobby 10 minutes before the expected time, the students found Mr. Brian Facemire already seated with a cup of coffee in hand.

“Couldn’t wait until we got here?” The students asked him.

“Not a chance,” he responded, sipping on his coffee.

With coffee and breakfast flooding their systems, the group traveled to the Panamanian embassy for a visit with several Panamanian representatives.

“Welcome to Panama!” said the greeter as the students entered the facility, moving into a world that felt international despite its place in the middle of D.C.

Several staff members at the embassy taught the group about Panama and how their country worked with the American government. Hearing firsthand how two governments work together was an experience that really hit home. The staff explained the politics and economics behind how the Panama Canal provides many differing services to numerous countries apart from just transportation. It gave a unique insight into the enormity of how the world truly works.

After leaving the embassy, the group travelled back into the city for one last stop, the headquarters of National Geographic. Students had the opportunity to walk around a brand new exhibit by National Geographic photographer Joel Sartore.

The massive exhibit documented Sartore’s ambitious project to photograph every species in captivity in the world. What is called the Photo Ark, a word play on Noah’s Ark, displays photos taken thus far for his project. Although Mr. Sartore is not yet finished, the sheer number of animals was astounding to see.

After making their way through Sartore’s exhibit, the students happened upon a wall featuring the work of Dr. Brian Gratwicke, the same scientist the group met and the National Zoo.

“My absolute favorite part, even though slightly embarrassing, was when everyone started yelling ‘Ms. Johnson, Ms. Johnson it’s Brian Gratwicke!’” stated Ms. Johnson, the group’s chaperone. “It really pulled everything together.”

With the final stop under their belts, the group departed for Virginia Beach, but they took a slight detour to see the cherry blossom festival that was also happening in D.C.

The trip was a great way for the two STRI classes to pull together in a way that none on the trip will soon forget, making their summer travels together that much more realistic. The behind the scenes look at several iconic locations in D.C. spoke to the opportunities provided in STRI and other classes at Cape Henry.

After spending close to four hours together on the bus and almost a day in Washington, the class is ready for two weeks traveling together in Panama this June.

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