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By Tracie Mitchell
Staff Writer 

Bringing history to life: Worland High School students visit Washington, D.C. and bring back a new depth of understanding

WORLAND – Nothing brings history to life more than actually having a chance to see what you are learning about with your own eyes and experiencing the depths of emotions the hands-on experience creates.


April 14, 2018


Worland High School AP history students pose for a picture at the World War II Memorial during their Worland High School AP History class week long field study in Washington, D.C. from March 24-31. Pictured in no particular order: Brady Rasmussen, Hunter Elliott, Delanie Campbell, Makayla Fulfer, Cherith Ferrett, Siobhan Myers, Laura Anderson, Taylor Noland, Kasia Strohman, Tristan Nemyo, Elise Washington, Paris Caines, Katelin Scheuerman, Ivan Perez, Casey Wassum, Madi DuPree, Pete Douzenis, Morgan Tigner, Olivia Scheuerman, Saige Jones, Maclin Wiley, Dalton Jeffries, Dane Bennett, Jaycee Page, Josh Garza, Kendre Kidgell and Randy Durr.

WORLAND – Nothing brings history to life more than actually having a chance to see what you are learning about with your own eyes and experiencing the depths of emotions the hands-on experience creates. That's what happened to 26 Worland High School senior AP history students when they visited Washington, D.C. from March 24 – 31 with their teacher Randy Durr.

Durr has taken the trip 18 times during his career as an educator, including five times with Worland High School students.

"It's almost like a life-changing experience, like I never would have had an opportunity to go see the Holocaust Museum and since I saw that, I was changed by that. It's a once in a lifetime opportunity especially for kids from small towns, we don't get to travel as much because we are here and we have never experienced the big city and being around lots of people, it opens your eyes that the world is a lot bigger than just here. It's not always what you expect. You realize what has happened in order for us to be here, with all the wars and the Holocaust. Like when we went to the African American Museum and you realize what those people went through and the sacrifices that had to happen for us to be able to go there," several of the students said.

Durr explained, "It's a two-year commitment because these kids took AP U.S. history I and we covered from 1750 to World War II and then they recommit to the class as a senior and we cover from World War II to 1976. It ties in totally because everything we see in D.C they have studied during the two-year process. The kids have a very vast knowledge of American history because we study way more in detail over a two-year period of time than they would if they just took it over one year."

"I go to D.C. lots of times, not being critical of other organizations, but I see a group leading a bunch of eighth-grade kids that have never had history and they have no idea of really what they are seeing and it always concerns me that they don't understand and they may be kind of messing around and they don't get it. These kids get it. As a matter of fact, we had a tour of the Library of Congress and our Segway tour. During the course of both the Library of Congress tour and the Segway tour the guides ask them history questions. Both leaders told me they were the best class they ever had at knowing the answers to their questions. Which was really pretty cool, because they ask them, like the Library of Congress, 'Why did Thomas Jefferson sell his collection?' Well they know that during the War of 1812 they used the Library of Congress' books to set the capital on fire. They [leaders] were just going whoa, nobody has ever answered that. Then we went on the Segway tour, they take them to all the monuments and they ask them different questions as we go and they were astonished about how much the students knew," Durr said. He added that the only question the students didn't answer correctly was when they were asked how many U.S. Presidents were not buried in the United States ... The ones still alive.

The students arrived at the National Mall in Washington, D.C. around 3 p.m. on March 24, just in time to see the remnants of the 800,000 people who were there for the March Against Guns. Durr stated that he felt that the trip was more historic than usual because the students got to become part of history because they were there during the march. "There were 250,000 people during the March on Washington when Martin Luther King gave his 'I have a dream speech,' there were 800,000 in the mall that day. That was pretty neat for the kids to see."

Riding the subway was a scary experience for most of the students but they quickly acclimated and learned to enjoy it. The students stated that the subway was never overly crowded and was much cleaner than they expected.

While riding the subway and visiting the sights the students saw complete blatant disrespect for the President of the United States. "One thing that was kind of tough, I've been there 18 times, I've been through five presidential administrations, the disrespect that was shown to this president, I was very, very surprised. It was an eye opener for not only me but the kids. People, young kids wearing big red, white and blue buttons that say 'f*** Trump.' Signs during the protest saying those types of derogative remarks. There was a newspaper machine where someone had spray painted 'f*** Trump' and on street signs. I have been there many times and I had never seen that, now I don't agree with everything the guy does either, but he is the president, he's an institution, it's an institution. I could not believe the blatant disrespect for the office," Durr said. "We got on the subway one time and this young gal, she might have been 19, sat in there with her friend laughing with this great big button that said 'f*** Trump' on it. Our kids are looking at her; they were just like whoa, especially with Wyoming being such a Republican and Trump-supporting state. The general feeling in Washington, D.C. is that they are not supporters of the president," he added.

The students were saddened and outraged by the disrespect they saw. "It makes me angry that kids our age and the kids slightly older than us don't have any respect for anything. Even if they don't agree with some people's point of view, they don't have to do that. We saw derogatory comments towards Trump written on newspaper stands, stop signs and it was kind of eye opening because it's crossing the line. I have never seen that amount of just blatant disrespect. You can not agree with something but you don't have to deface public property and force your opinions on the city. That's just vandalism. If anything it's casting you in a worse light and your opinions are less likely to be heard because of the way you are presenting them," the students stated.

While visiting the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall the students were able to talk to a gentleman who explained that he was a protester during the war. They learned how, as a protester in 1965 or so, he was tear-gassed, beaten and arrested. "It was kind of cool to hear his side. He even told us that he understood that the veterans were mad at him for protesting, but he felt that he was protesting for them, so they wouldn't have to go through what they did. He told us about the draft and how stressful it was," the students said.

They had a similar experience at the Holocaust Museum. "It's really important for people to see the uncensored history, that it did happen. They had a little table set up and there was a guy who was actually a survivor of the holocaust. You could sit down and talk to him and ask him some questions and listen to his stories. He was 6 when it happened," the students said.

Arlington National Cemetery and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier made an impact on the students. They stated that Arlington was an eye-opener, especially with Durr because he knew so many different people buried there and he took the time to take them to all the different graves, which made it more real. The students were fascinated by the concrete by the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier being worn down by the guards and the circles where the guards stop and stand in the concrete.

The students stated that they felt that the trip brought to life not only the history that they had been learning for the last two years but also things they learned about in other classes. "Even in other classes, like when we toured the Library of Congress our guide talked about Plato's allegory of the cave, which we studied in AP lit. We got to see statues of like Homer and Gibbon and Shakespeare, which we also studied in our English class so it was kind of like cross curriculum," Paris Caines said.

When the students were asked what they took from the trip the most, they replied, "I think the memories, very memorable being with your friends and seeing everything. We've been learning about it for two years and to actually see it in real life was pretty cool. It took it to another level because when you are sitting here learning about it, it's one thing but when you're actually seeing it with your own eyes, it really brings it home that this stuff actually happened. Like the Vietnam Memorial, you hear about how many deaths there were but when you look at the wall and there are just so many names. It's funny to watch people's reaction because they could like be talking then as soon as they hit that wall it is just silence. When you leave you are like a completely new person, people show respect there that is not normally shown today. The same with JFK's eternal flame, you walk up the steps and when you get there it is complete silence. You can learn about history and watch all the videos about it, but when you actually see his gravestone and the eternal flame it's a completely different experience. It really brings home what happened."


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