Field Trip: The Newseum

They're a lot of work.  I mean, a LOT of work.  Finding substitutes, preparing lesson plans.  Researching transportation, costs and rules.  Collecting money, submitting purchase orders.  The sort of menial busywork I detest more than anything.

But.  BUT.  Meeting in the school lobby early on a Friday morning, and then wickedly, gleefully, walking OUT.  Waiting for the train in the crisp fall air.  Talking to your students about their college plans, favorite football players, your shared love of pulled pork and dislike of overzealous air-conditioning systems.  Letting slip a sympathetic, "That sucks," and not realizing it until four or five sentences later.  Feeling not like teacher and student, but like humans -- just humans out for a day of fun.

The Newseum is incredibly well-designed and boasts more than a dozen interactive, dynamic exhibits.  My students said gleefully, as we left, "That did NOT feel like a museum!"  We played a game about ethics; they got to get in front of a live camera and read the teleprompter; we watched countless short and long film segments, read gripping accounts of reporting as it merged with personal lives, searched databases of Pulitzer Prize-winning photographs and journalists killed in the line of duty, and more than once were overcome by emotion while reading about or re-experiencing a historical event.  Case in point: watching a documentary about sports coverage, I got choked up hearing the TV announcer squalling, "The RED SOX are WORLD CHAMPIONS!"  And we all know how I feel about sports.

I visited about a month ago in preparation for the trip, took copious notes, and made up a four-page handout with trivia to collect during the trip and writing prompts to respond to for homework.  Between that visit and yesterday's, about four hours each, I think I saw just about everything, though I barely scratched the surface of the wealth of information in each exhibit.  I'm seriously considering a membership.  (For families, that's the only way it would be affordable, at $20 a pop for tickets.)

My colleague and fellow chaperone took a photo of us at one of the exhibits, a story about the Berlin Wall that included several sections of the actual wall.  The East German side was bleak and blank, but the West German side was filled with angry, playful graffiti.  I wish I could publish it here, but for privacy reasons I don't want to put photos of my students up.  You'll just have to imagine it: we stood, smiling, relaxed, having a great Friday full of ideas and freedom.  That's what field trips are all about.