Day 1: On Friday, May 1st, the 8th Grade History Club boarded the bus at 7 AM for the trip to Gettysburg, PA. This year was different in that a chartered coach bus was used instead of a school bus. We rolled out of the school parking lot at 7:15 and made our way south to Pennsylvania. Our first stop was at a state park for lunch at about the half-way point of the trip. It was raining when we arrived, but that didn't stop us from getting the grill started and hot dogs roasting. The students enjoyed exploring the park while lunch was prepared. The weather got better, and the sun was shining as we left the park 90 minutes later. We arrived in Gettysburg around 4PM and got checked into our rooms at a very nice hotel right next to the National Cemetery in town. We then walked to the wax museum just down the street, in which students were able to view life-sized figures and scenes showing the events leading up to and including the Gettysburg Battle. After that we went to a restaurant for an all-you-can-eat pizza dinner. One of our chaperones, Mrs. Woolley, brought and wore one of her outfits from the Civil War Era. While we waited for our next event, she described her attire and the reasons why so many pieces were worn. That was followed by a brief tour of some haunted areas nearby with a storyteller telling of spooky events that happened at that location. The last event of the day was a trip down the road to the AllStar Sports Complex, where the students were able to ride go-carts, play basketball and volleyball, or try some mini-golf. As expected, the go-carts were the most popular. They were allowed to enjoy the facilities from 8:30 to 11PM at which time we returned back to the hotel to turn in for the night. The first day was a complete success, and the students are having a great time. Tomorrow is loaded with historical tours, including a bike tour of the battlefields.
Day 2: Continental breakfast at the hotel was the first item on the agenda, as the weather looked like it was going to cooperate with us. We took the bus over to the massive visitor's center/museum where the students were treated to a wide-screen movie showing the events leading up to and including the Gettysburg Battles. They then got to view the original Cyclorama, which is an artist's rendering of what it looked like during the battle that was painted in the 1880's. Lighting and sound accompanied a narrator's commentary on the scenes, including some pretty loud cannon shots. They were then allowed to tour the museum which included interactive multimedia presentations and thousands of genuine artifacts. From there the group went to the Shriver House to view what a home looked like in the days of the Civil War, along with hearing about what the village had to go through during the battle. After that it was a short walk to the hotel's picnic area for lunch. Then it was on to the featured event of the day, a bicycle guided tour of the battlefields. Everyone was fitted with a bike and helmet, and then led through the village out onto the battlefield roads. Our guide is an 8th grade Social Studies teacher and Certified Battlefield Guide. He did a wonderful job explaining the series of events, along with the meanings of certain monuments. The students loved his presentation, and had a great time riding the bikes through the areas where it all happened. The trip and presentations lasted over 4 hours, and ended with a special talk about our local hero, Alfonzo Cushing, who was instrumental in the final battle scene. Afterwards, there was a little time left before dinner, and most used the time to do some shopping at the shops near our hotel. Our dinner was at a buffet restaurant, and was followed by a Lincoln impersonator in a theatre above the restaurant. On the way back down the street, a small encampment of Civil War Confederate soldier re-enactors were camping out, and our students were given a demonstration on loading and shooting the musket rifles. The final event of the day was a presentation by a group that performs ghost investigators. Gettysburg is known for having the most paranormal activity in the world, and this group was in town to do some investigating. The students were shown the tools of the trade, and how their work was done. It concluded with a brief walk to an open field where some of the tools were tried out by the students. However, no ghosts were found. It was back to the hotel, with time for the students to pack and get ready for a morning departure. Needless to say, all was quiet very quickly as they went to bed tired from a long day's activities.
Day 3: Our last day in Gettysburg began with continental breakfast at our hotel followed by packing up and loading the bus for the trip home, but there was still time for a couple more visits in Gettysburg. A light rain was falling as ths students walked to the National Memorial Cemetery located next to our hotel. We stood in the area where President Lincoln made his famous Gettysburg Address speech. From there it was back on the bus for atrip over to the Eternal Peace Monument, which signifies the end of the war and the North and South coming back together, a fitting way to finish our visit to this wonderful town. But our adventures were not yet over, as a planned stop at Penn's Cave was next on our list. This is America's only all-water cavern which also includes a wildlife park located in Central Pennsylvania. Our students made there way down the walkway to the underground cave, and boarded the long skinny boat. The cavern tour was a guided one-hour tour along an underground stream. Along the limestone corridors, stalagmites, stalactites, and columns were pointed out by the guide, of which they named according to what they looked like. In addition to the guide's spotlight, the formations were lit with floodlights, including one area that used colored lighting to enhance the view. The students enjoyed the ride and learned quite a bit according to the quiz given by the guide on the way back to the dock. (6" = 3,000 years) We then had a cheeseburger lunch in the park's gift store/restaurant before boarding the park's "Safari Bus" for a tour of their nature and wildlife preserve. Over narrow roads and steep hills we traveled to view a variety of animals, including deer, elk and bison. But the more interesting part was the viewing of wolves, bears and lions that thrilled the students. The close-up views of them was better than seen in most zoos, and our Safari Guide did an excellent job of teaching us all about the creatures, along with answering all of the questions the students had. Afterwards, our students had a brief time to browse through the gift shop before it was time to board the bus for the trip home. A non-stop trip landed us in Forestville at 7:00 PM with a bunch of exhausted students and chaperones. Before everyone left, Mrs. Gunnersen thanked the chaperones for their help, and the students for being such a great group. Everyone agreed that it was a terrific trip.