America's Past Comes to Life on Boston Trip

Early on a late-October morning, two charter buses lined up along East End Avenue, awaiting passengers. Soon, the quiet street came to life as 62 excited students and their teachers stowed overnight bags, bid New York goodbye and climbed aboard. Class 7's much anticipated trip to Boston – an annual Chapin tradition – had finally arrived!

For the next three days, the students experienced a thoughtfully prepared agenda that immersed them in the city's historic and cultural treasures. Each site was specifically selected to enhance and deepen their cross-disciplinary classroom work. The girls also had the opportunity to strengthen relationships with their peers by staying together – four to a room – at an area hotel, and enjoying an array of restaurants and recreational activities.

"Every young scholar got to take in and give out information in ways that both suited her and challenged her. Our students were incredibly absorbent, eager to soak up the big-picture concepts and the tiny details," remarked Kelly Hammond, Middle School Humanities Department Chair and one of the trip's organizers.

After the smooth, four-hour ride, the buses arrived at the first stop: Plimoth Plantation in Plymouth, Massachusetts, where the 1600s came to vibrant life. In the 17th Century English Village, talented actors portrayed Colonial men and women going about their daily routines in an authentically re-created farming and maritime community. At the Wampanoag Homesite, actual Native Americans, either Wampanoag or from other Nations, dressed in the clothing of that time period and shared fascinating facts about the Wampanoag history and culture.

"I felt like I wasn't in the 21st century anymore," commented a Class 7 student. "I really liked meeting the Wampanoag People."

As they walked around the expansive Plimouth Plantation grounds on the chilly afternoon, the students observed the natural landscape and tried their hands at sketching indigenous plant specimens and historical artifacts in their notebooks. They learned the Latin and Greek names for the plant species, connecting to their Latin studies with Alice McIntyre. Further, they began to understand the basics of botany, which is Class 7's next unit in Autumn Becker's Science classes.

Another trip highlight was the remarkable Freedom Trail, the 2.5 mile collection of museums, churches, meeting houses, burial grounds and parks that dramatizes the time around the American Revolution with the help of costumed "Freedom Trail Players." Drawing on what they learned in history class, the students gave individual presentations at sites along the trail such as Old State House, Robert Gould Shaw Memorial and Park Street Church. After a break to relax in Boston Commons, the group explored the African Meeting House, the oldest black church edifice still standing in the United States, and took in "Picturing Frederick Douglass," a photography exhibit celebrating this important African American activist.

At the Boston Tea Party Ship and Museum, one of several museums on the schedule, Class 7 appreciated the hands-on programming. "That museum was my favorite because we got to throw tea into the water to protest taxes," a student exclaimed. Later on, when they visited the American Wing of the Museum of Fine Arts, they received a warm welcome from one of the museum's directors, Elliot Bostwick Davis, who is a Chapin alumna from the Class of 1980 and also a cousin of a student in Class 7.

"Elliot spoke to the girls about values she took away from Chapin into the real world," noted Ms. Hammond. "She urged them to make good choices, be true to themselves, follow their passions and be grateful for the faculty and peers around them."

The group also toured the Harvard Museum of Natural History, where they drew glass flower models, and investigated Renaissance Art at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. After studying the Renaissance in Class 6, the students were excited to continue their scholarship of this fascinating era in European history.

While the Boston trip was certainly packed with educational elements, the girls had ample unstructured time to unwind and reflect. On Wednesday, they shared a picnic in an Emerald Necklace Conservancy park, reading short stories together and playing games. In the evenings, they enjoyed a few hours of independent time before getting ready for bed. And, of course, mealtime proved to be a memorable part of each day. "I liked the Fire and Ice restaurant. They cooked everything in a huge fire pit," one student commented. Several others remarked that The Cheesecake Factory's food was outstanding.

All in all, the excursion was an overwhelming success. "Boston was so fun! It is something all Class 6 students can look forward to," said a student.

Ms. Hammond wholeheartedly agreed, adding that the trip was designed to appeal to students with different interests and talents. "The variety of experiences of the trip really allowed each girl to shine in unique ways, whether dissecting a painting at a museum, presenting dynamically on the Freedom Trail, engaging a Native American in discussions about current Native issues or carefully observing and sketching an indigenous plant," she remarked. Class 7 teachers June Anderson, Autumn Becker, Sarah Davies, Lynette Engel, Alice McIntyre and Leone Seltzer joined Ms. Hammond as the faculty on the trip.

After three days engrossed in America's complex and eventful past, Class 7 students packed up their overnight bags and their notebooks and got ready to return to New York. With their transformative experiences in Boston helping to guide them, these brave and capable students can look ahead to more eye-opening lessons as they think deeply about their roles in the ever-changing world.

Click HERE to view photos from the trip.