Sixth Graders Visit Philadelphia and Gettysburg

St. Bernard’s sixth grade class traveled to Philadelphia and Gettysburg from Tuesday, April 23, to Thursday, April 25.  They visited historical sites and learned about important events that shaped the country in which they live.  They had a terrific time, as they describe in their own words in a compilation of writing by Anders C., Brennan C., and Matteo H.

The Gettysburg trip is a defining moment at St. Bernard’s and is one of the few opportunities St. Bernard’s boys have to walk the path of American history as opposed to simply reading and writing about it.  It is one of the most anticipated milestones of the St. Bernard’s experience.  It is an important bonding time for the class and, for those of us who went without a parent, a chance to show we can handle ourselves away from home.
The visits to the museums, specifically Independence Hall, the National Constitution Center, and the Gettysburg National Military Park Museum were an important part of the trip for me because they had many artifacts and visuals which were an important part of my learning experience…Independence Hall had life-sized bronze statues of each of the founding fathers.  It was fun to see how they would have looked if they had been alive.  The Military Park Museum in Gettysburg also had some memorable artifacts, such as actual guns that were used during the war, and Union and Confederate uniforms.
My experience at Gettysburg was immersive and helped me learn about aspects of the Battle of Gettysburg in a different way than just learning about the topic in the classroom…the ability to actually see the land on which the battle took place in 1863 will help me remember it (and the facts about it) forever.  The tour guide at Gettysburg was particularly helpful because he walked us through parts of the battle and mentioned facts which helped me recollect what I had read in my history textbook…Not only did he know about the battle itself, but he also gave us information about the monuments on the land and told a special story about John F. Kennedy’s visit to Gettysburg.  This experience really made the battle come alive for me!
The most important thing this trip does is make you see and appreciate the strength and determination of all the soldiers, no matter what they believed in.  It makes you think about what was sacrificed for the whole country of America.  Running Pickett’s Charge made me realize how scared all the soldiers must have been, knowing half of them would be ripped apart by artillery.  These soldiers had already spent nights crawling through dirt, and then they were expected to risk their lives, families, and sanity for their rights.
My classmates are a big part of my life at St. Bernard’s.  I am friends with all of them but only see most of them at school in their uniform.  Over the trip I heightened many friendships, not only in my class, but in the other one too.  I really enjoyed eating at General Pickett's and playing on the huge green field close by.  It was enjoyable to be stress-free and not have to think about getting homework done for the evening and just have a good time with my friends!
There is a real benefit to visiting history on its home turf that cannot be replicated within the building on 98th Street.  There is the sense that adults have faith in your ability to do the right thing.  Yes, it is fun to eat all you want at Reading Terminal and play ball in the middle of the day, but what really counts is the inspiration you get from standing on Cemetery Ridge and imagining the American heroes who fought and died there.  The Gettysburg trip is as important to a St. Bernard’s education as Latin and Shakespeare!  
History needs to be touched to feel real. We can memorize facts about the Sedition Act and Jefferson versus Adams.  We can study the differences between the Articles of the Confederacy and the Constitution.  But, that is just not the same as standing in the small, damp room with huge windows where the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence were signed…Being in the places where our history happened forces us to consider how many people died to keep America one country and how sad it is to be a divided nation once again.  The Gettysburg adventure gives context to everything we have learned since September.
This trip to Gettysburg was amazing, and it changed the way I look at the world.  It was nice to have a little reprieve from school while still learning so much about life.  It helped me learn in an exciting, interactive, and stress-free environment and is a trip I will never forget.