Fri | Jan 19, 2018

Glenmuir students get a taste of history in DC

Published:Sunday | June 11, 2017 | 12:00 AM
Panoramic view of Library of Congress where six students and two teachers from Glenmuir High School were on a Cultural Enrichment Tour of Washington DC
Panoramic view of Library of Congress where six students and two teachers from Glenmuir High School were on a Cultural Enrichment Tour of Washington DC.
A mask at National Museum of African American History and Culture.
From the left back row – Alex Subastin (Student), Omar Stone (Student), Twannia Osbourne (Student) behind Julia Hyatt; Middle row – Theodecia Johnson; Front row – Deserene Burrell-Ingram (Teacher), Moya Johnson (Senior Teacher), Najay Stewart (Student), Audrey Marks, Julia Hyatt – OAS, Ariel Bowen, Teka Bailey (Student), and Marsha Coore–Lobban. Six students and two teachers were on a Cultural Enrichment Tour of Washington DC, May 3 -7. They toured various memorials, monuments, as well as visited and conducted primary research at the Library of Congress, and Smithsonian Castle and museums of African Art and the American Indian, thus enhancing key components of the Cape Unit Two History syllabus.
A coffee pot at National Museum of African American History and Culture.
Artefacts at National Museum of African American History and Culture.
Students and teachers from Glenmuir High School pose for a photograph at Jefferson Memorial.
Amitabh Sharma

Life unfolds in many manifestations, it is full of joy, excitement, and sometimes it has pleasant surprises in store. Last month, a group of teachers and students from Glenmuir High School in Clarendon got a chance to retrace the steps of history in Washington DC.

Like the blank pages of time, each chapter leading to this Cultural Enrichment Tour has a story to tell that of vision, oodles of faith, tons of blessings, and, of course, as The Beatles, a certain quartet from across the Atlantic once said, "... with a little help from our friends."

"It was a profound experience," said Moya Johnson, senior teacher in the Department of History, Glenmuir High School. "Most of the students who went on this tour are from the grassroots, and come from humble backgrounds."

Johnson, who along with her colleagues conceptualised this initiative, said that of the six students, five were travelling overseas for the first time.

Logistics had to be tied, paperwork done, passports made, visas secured, funds garnered and sourced - it might seems a succession of words in a sentence, but in actual terms it was a mammoth task.

Much before students and the two accompanying teachers, including Johnson, boarded the flight; adrenaline rush was on a high every second of every passing day.

"It was a lot of prayers," Johnson said, and as always, the divine intervention came through.

The group departed on May 3, to experience first-hand, how the course of American History was changed - they visited Library of Congress, Smithsonian Castle, Museum of African Art and the Museum of the American Indian.


The Library of Congress


"We engaged in a guided tour by the Docent of the library and learnt about the art and architecture of the Thomas Jefferson Building as well as the contributors and different collections at the facility," Johnson informed.

The group attended a private seminar on online research and using primary documents relating to topics in the History syllabus.

"Dr Jurretta Hecksher, reference specialist for American History at the Library of Congress, chaired the seminar," she said. " ... and as a treat she took us to see the Main Reading Room of the Thomas Jefferson Building!"

The group also toured the different exhibits on World War I, gaining knowledge on an era bygone, when words like mega pixels, wireless networking and touch-screens were fictional as Starship Enterprise going to where no man has gone before.

Johnson said that the students and the teachers alike were awe struck and intrigued by the exhibits and elated as they received loads of free literature on the different exhibits.


Memories of the Holocaust


The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum was a sombre experience, which has Daniel's Story, where the horrors of the Holocaust were viewed through the eyes of a child.

"Daniel's House was reconstructed and sections of the ghettos and the concentration camp of Auschwitz in Poland was also reconstructed where you read journal entries along the way comparing life before and after the holocaust," the senior teacher said. "The group was moved by his story and found the exhibit quite superb and the curating outstanding."

The group had made a courtesy call at the Jamaican Embassy, where they got an orientation on diplomacy; and afterwards got a chance to visit the National Mall afterwards to see the White House, World War II memorial, Thomas Jefferson memorial, Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument & Reflection Pool, Korean War Memorial and Potomac River.


The Smithsonian Experience


Smithsonian is a encyclopedia, unfolding stories, volume after volume, comprising of 19 museums, galleries, gardens, and a zoo this group got to savour some gems in the collection.

"The African Art museum was my personal favourite," Johnson said. "The different exhibits sought to deepen the viewer's understanding of the African continent's diverse and compelling art forms.

She said that it was tremendously humbling to reconnect with the ancestral heritage. "There was a myriad of pieces from Congo, Angola, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Swaziland, Senegal, Cote D' Ivoire, Nigeria, Ghana to name a few."

The Museum of the American Indian was a work of art by itself, Johnson said.

"I was awed by its contemporary architecture," she said. "The exquisite, curvilinear and domed shaped, clad in Kasota limestone and surrounded by an eastern lowland landscape amid numerous water features was a feast for the eyes."

Here the group viewed Our Universes: Traditional Knowledge Shapes Our World and Nation to Nation: Treaties between the United States and the American Indian Nation.

At the end of the tour, Johnson said, they were enlightened as this tour opened their flight of imagination beyond the realms of the books, it was a life experience.

"This trip broadened the students' as well as the teachers' discipline and character and I am sure it will prove invaluable in their future endeavours," Johnson said, thanking all those to contributed resources to make it happen.

Knowledge, like light, needs a clear path to travel, and illuminate and such initiatives help to the open young minds, for one day they would rule the world.

As American writer and professor of biochemistry Isaac Asimov once said, "Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won't come in."

And the light of knowledge shone through.