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Middle schoolers find history lessons can be fun

The biggest group of New Richmond Middle School students ever to take part in the annual trip to Washington, D.C. returned home with memories to last a lifetime.

Fifty students, along with three teacher-chaperones and the mothers of three students, returned from their April 22-23 adventure.

Middle School teacher Vicki Cobian, who has now planned seven trips for eighth graders, said this year's group was the best behaved and respectful group to travel to the nation's capitol.

The group of travelers encountered a few problems on the trip, however. There was heavy rain the first day in Washington, D.C. which caused a change in plans.

"We had to become Smithsonian rats the first day," Cobian said of their indoor activities.

A couple students also got sick on the trip, forcing some kids and chaperones to miss part of the fun.

"We've never had that happen before," she said. "Even with those couple things, we still had a great trip."

The group enjoyed a couple of new experiences this year. They were lucky to tour the Supreme Court building, which had never occurred before.

The students were also treated to past favorites, including the play "Shear Madness" at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

"They mention the school, New Richmond Middle School, in the play, which is greeted with applause by the kids," Cobian said. "Then they allow the audience to help solve the mystery of who committed the murder. The kids always love that."

Several students who went along for the whirlwind tour said they were thrilled to be part of the trip.

Jenna Leahy called it a "good experience" and she would do it again in a heartbeat if she had the chance.

"We were like ... go, go, go," she said. "I was so wiped out by the end, but we learned a lot."

Patrick Lokker gave the trip a big thumbs up too.

"I thought it was pretty cool," he said, noting that the group's tour guide was especially entertaining. "He kept everything funny and interesting."

Aaron Larson also had nothing but high praise for the entire experience.

"I thought it was really awesome," he said.

Larson was particularly drawn to the Vietnam Memorial during the group's visit there.

"I've been reading a lot about the Vietnam War," he said. "Most of my family has been in the military, and I had a lot of family over there -- five or six members."

Christy Martinson said she was impressed by the Holocaust Museum, which recounted the atrocities by Germany against Jews in World War II.

"We've been learning a lot about the Holocaust, so it was a good follow-up to that," she said.

She was also impressed with the changing of the guard ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Two New Richmond students participated in the ceremony by placing a wreath at the tomb.

Overall, Martinson said the entire trip was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

"It was very educational, but it was fun at the same time," she said. "And I liked the fact that we had a lot of freedom. They trusted us to walk around and meet back later."