SIKESTON -- In a real hands-on learning experience, some area students will be in Washinton, D.C., next week to participate in the events surrounding the inauguration of Barack Obama as the nation's 44th president.
Molly Noe, eighth grade American History teacher at the Seventh and Eighth Grade Center in Sikeston, is chaperoning a group of 20 eighth and ninth grade students. Two other adult chaperones will be part of the group, which leaves Saturday and returns Wednesday.
"They're really excited," said Noe. She is too -- although the responsibility of watching all the students is also a bit scary for her.
Although Noe has lead other student trips to D.C., this is the first time she'll attend a presidential inauguration.
"EF Smithsonian is the company we're traveling through, that I've used before," she said. Noe explained the company sends her several packets about trips, and the inauguration packet caught her eye.
"I thought that would be a really cool trip we could take," she said.
The students thought so, too. When Noe began planning the trip in August 2007, about 50 students were interested. However, the price tag is $1,200, so the list narrowed, she explained.
A lot of the students had to work to raise some of the money for their trip. But it's something they said they knew they wanted to do -- and can't believe is almost here.
"I thought it would be cool," said Trenice Greer. "Going and seeing just makes it more real."
Classmate Connor MacGillivray said he's going for the experience. "It's a once-in-a-lifetime event," he said. "But it's going to be crazy."
Adam Stratman agreed. "It's history."
Rachel Webb said her parents are a bit jealous she gets to attend -- and have encouraged her to shake Obama's hand if possible.
Noe said that, as an educator, a field trip like this is the best teaching tool. "It brings it alive, especially at these students' ages," she said. "When we can go there and see it in action, it makes it more real."
They have general admission tickets for the actual event, so they'll watch it on a jumbotron, a large-screen television in a location away from the site.
The experience may also encourage students to set goals to become involved in politics and be leaders themselves someday, Noe said.
Apart from Noe's group, senior Rebecca Patterson will also be in Washington, D.C., next week. She'll go as part of the Presidential Youth Inaugural Conference, which she was invited to attend since she is an alumni Congressional Youth Leadership Council.
"I just knew that it was going to be a good experience, no matter who was running or who was elected," said Patterson. She began planning for the conference in May. "I just knew it was something that I would remember for the rest of my life."
Patterson will be in D.C. five days. As part of the conference, she'll listen to guest speakers including former general and Secretary of State Colin Powell, as well as former Vice President Al Gore. "We will also be doing some sightseeing around the national mall," she said.
In another plus, Patterson will get to visit some of the Smithsonian museums. Conference attendees will go to a ball at the Space and Air Museum. "And we'll have access to some parts the public does not get to see," said Patterson.
The eighth and ninth graders will also do quite a bit while in the Capitol. There is a ball in conjunction with the trip. They're also booked solid on days other than the inauguration with sightseeing.
Some of the attractions they are lined up to visit are the Arlington National Cemetery, Mount Vernon and some of the Smithsonian museums.