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Trip of a lifetime, for every age

On October 19, I took a trip that will go down in my memory bank as one of the best trips I've ever taken. I chaperoned the 9th grade Discovery Middle School (DMS) trip to Washington, D.C. (see facing page)

I'd never been to Washington, D.C., but it sounded like a place everyone should visit at least once in their lifetime.

We had a busy, fast-paced schedule. A person could easily spend an entire day at many of the sites we visited, but we only had five days.

So the purpose of the trip was to introduce the students to as many things in the nation's capital city as possible in the amount of time available.

Neal Zappe, a DMS social studies teacher who has led this trip many, many times, has the planning down to an exact science. He works closely with the tour company, WorldStrides, to create the itinerary.

Not a minute was wasted. The wake-up calls came every morning between 5 and 6 a.m. and we were on the bus traveling between 6:45 and 7:45 a.m. We covered a lot of ground in a short amount of time.

That was possible because it was an extremely well-planned trip. But there was another element that made this such a great experience - the kids.

These kids really impressed me. They were always on time, always respectful and seemed genuinely interested in what they were seeing, hearing and learning about.

They were quiet and respectful in the White House, and while we didn't see the president or the first lady, some of the kids did see the presidential dog, Bo, going for his morning walk on the White House lawn.

They seemed intrigued by the many war memorials they saw, and took time to read the historical writings included at each.

They were moved to silence during the Changing of the Guard ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery, as well as during the presentation at Ford's Theatre where Preisdent Lincoln was assasinated.

They were awed by the architecture and art at the U.S. Capital and listened with interest during a Senate session.

Many experienced their first subway ride and rode one of the longest escalators in the world coming out of the MetroRail tunnel.

They were amazed to see the original documents housed in the National Archives building, including the Declaration of Independence.

They had fun with their friends looking at all the exhibits at the various museums and enjoyed the Medieval Times dinner show.

The Gettysburg tour seemed to have a lot of impact on them, as did the September 11/Pentagon Memorial and of course, the Holocaust Museum.

Given their age, they were allowed a fair amount of freedom on the trip, and not once did any of them abuse that. They were always right where they were supposed to be, when they were supposed to be.

That definitely made the chaperones' jobs easier, and allowed us to experience the trip of a lifetime as well.

Follow #AlexMN @EchoPress Life Editor Tara Bitzan on Twitter at @TBitzan.

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Tara Bitzan

Tara Bitzan is editor of the Echo Press. She joined the company in 1991 as a news reporter. A lifelong resident of Douglas County, Tara graduated from Brandon High School and earned a bachelor of arts degree in mass communications and English with a minor in Scandinavian Studies from Moorhead State University. She and her husband, Dennis, and their children live near Alexandria.

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