Miles from Madison
During the March Intercession, Morgan County students contined their education
By Kathryn Purcell
And not by the
Morgan County Citizen’s foreign bureau
The break for intersession, which occurred last month, is used by Morgan County students to accomplish a variety of things. Some use the break in their semester to catch up on school work; some use it to prepare for upcoming tests, from the CRCT to the SAT; some use it to simply take a break. Three Morgan County school groups, however, chose to use Intersession as a time to educate themselves on the workings of the nation, and of the world. A group from Morgan County Middle School traveled to Washington, D.C., while one group from Morgan County High School went to Spain, Morocco and Portugal and another went to Italy and Greece. Despite their various destinations, all received a first-hand look at history, both already made and currently in the making.
Ever laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier?
Four Morgan County Middle School students undertook this honor as part of the school’s four-day trip to the nation’s capital.
Somehow, the group, made up of a total of 27 students and 17 adults, was able to pack much of the history of the United States in that Tuesday through Friday. Stops included the Smithsonian Institution; the Capitol, where they met with Georgia Congressman Paul Broun; the National Holocaust Museum; Mount Vernon, George Washington’s historic estate; Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s historic estate; as well as many of the city’s various monuments.
Overwhelmingly, however, it seems that the students’ favorite part of the trip was visiting the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery.
“Four of our students got to be a part of a wreath-laying ceremony with the guards; we presented a beautiful wreath that said ‘Morgan County Middle School’ to honor the tomb,“ seventh and eighth grade Enrichment Language Arts teacher Shannon Collier said, in an e-mail correspondence. “It was very moving and emotional; most parents cried, as did I. I was so proud of all of my students for their maturity at the solemn event.”
Enrichment Math teacher Chip Meyer pointed out the fact that the students portrayed their hometown well, from the meeting with Broun to the presentation of the wreath.
“The children did a great job representing Morgan County,” Meyer said.
Collier believes that, through their first-hand experience of history, students gained much knowledge, and that this trip should generate others.
“I really feel like the students gained a greater appreciation for our country and its history,” Collier said. “I truly believe that all of the students will again visit Washington, D.C. in the future to embrace more of the wonderful culture and history that is there.”
Spain, morocco and portugal
The trip taken by a group from Morgan County High School was packed to the brim with destinations — the cities of Madrid, Granada and Seville in Spain; Tetouan in Morocco; and Lisbon, Sintra and Cascais in Portugal. However, the supposed 10-day trip almost didn’t happen.
“We were supposed to leave on Saturday, March 8, but our flights got cancelled due to weather,” Citizenship and Advanced Placement (AP) Government teacher Amy Saylor said, in an e-mail correspondence. “After some serious wrangling with the airlines, we got a flight rescheduled for the next day. We lost one of our days in Madrid, but, fortunately, the rest of our itinerary was the same.”
Despite the setback, the group of four chaperones, five adults and 19 students definitely spent their share of time sightseeing. In Spain, the group saw Puerta del Sol, the Palacio Royal built by Bourbon King Philip V and the Prado Museum in Madrid; the Alhambra in Granada; and the Old Tobacco Factory where the opera “Carmen” is set, the Plaza de Toros and the Moorish Alcazar in Seville, among many other things, according to the itinerary. The group journeyed across the Strait of Gibraltar to enter Morocco and then traveled to Tatouan, where they visited a bazaar and local spice shop. Later, making their way to Portugal, the group saw the government square Praca do Comercio and the Castelo de Sao Jorge in Lisbon; the group also visited Sintra, where they saw the Palacio da Vila, and Cascais, a beach-side city made popular when its 17th-century citadel was converted to a royal retreat by King Luis I.
Saylor feels that students enjoyed their time to explore, and their time to eat, the most.
“The students loved having free time to shop and explore!” Saylor said. “They were definitely challenged by Spanish and Portuguese food, but some of them were quite adventurous and found some new things to eat (churros and chocolate)!”
Aside from buying spices and hand-woven Moroccan rugs, riding camels and eating authentic Moroccan food, Saylor feels the students learned much about culture in that part of the world, specifically the traditions and practices of Muslims, as well as about life in a third-world country.
“I think our students got to see their life in the United States in a different perspective,” Saylor said. “Hopefully, they have gained an appreciation for their own culture as well as an appreciation for other cultures and ways of doing things. Different doesn‘t always mean worse, it’s just different!”
In fact, for those interested in traveling on next year’s Intersession trip, there will be a meeting on Monday, April 14 at 7 p.m. in the band room at Morgan County High School.
italy and greece
The Morgan County High School group that traveled to Italy and Greece also experienced a lapse in their journey due to bad weather.
It snowed all the way to the Atlanta airport.
“We were still optimistic to the point that we got there, and our flight was cancelled,“ Media Specialist Lisa Adams said. “Because we were a group of 13, we were able to be put on the same flight.”
For some students, this was their first flight, and their first time venturing outside Madison.
The 10-day trip took the group of eight students and five adults across the ocean to Italy and Greece. Their first stop in Italy was Rome, where they were joined by a group from Canada. In Rome, the group saw Vatican City and St. Peter’s Basilica as well as the Trevi Fountain and the Colosseum, which they prepared for by watching “Gladiator” on the bus. While in Rome, the group also quickly discovered real Italian pizza and gelato, two of their soon-to-be favorite foods. Traveling on, the group went to Pompeii, where they saw the preserved town, including body casts, mosaics and frescoes.
Crossing the Ionian Sea to Greece was even an adventure, as the overnight cruise included a disco. Their first stop was Olympia, site of the original Olympic games.
“Students ran on the same field as ancient Olympic athletes,” Adams said. “It was interesting being on the same place thousands of years later.”
The students also saw the open-air theater in Epidaurus; Mycenae, where Agamemmnon began his campaign against Troy; the Acropolis and Parthenon in Athens; and Delphi, location of the supposed Oracle as well as the Temple of Apollo.
For 10th-grade student Hannah Tindol, the best part of the trip was seeing the Vatican.
“Seeing all the paintings, tapestries and sculptures,” Tindol said, about why she like the Vatican. “I also didn’t think I’d miss home so much, but I did.”
Faith Roman, also in 10th grade, agreed.
“I liked the Vatican...and the Acropolis and Olympia and the Trevi Fountain,” Roman said. “Italian food is better than Greek food. They have better ice cream.”
For Abby Swanson, also in 10th grade, her favorite part of the trip was the trip itself.
“I was glad I went because I got to go out and see the world, see how other people live,” Swanson said.
Overall, Adams feels that the students learned more than they thought they would from their experience out of the country.
“I think students took away more than I can put into words,” Adams said. “The experience is so valuable. The experience being away from home teaches them to appreciate their home. Seeing other cultures than you see in America, you realize America is just a small part of the world.”
More than that, five special needs students went on the trip. Adams expressed the importance of also allowing the opportunity to see the world to everyone.
“It’s important for them to see everything in the world that other people see,” Adams said. “It was strenuous for some, but it was worth it. It was very, very meaningful for them.”
Anyone interested in attending next year’s trip can contact Adams at Morgan County High School for more information.