Certain childhood memories last a lifetime. Leafing through watershed moments in the pages of a history textbook is not one of them. No matter how scintillating the battle, how epochal the figure, how calamitous and significant the narrative, few students walk away from history class with a single vision permanently etched on the core of their minds.
History school trips, however, can be a different kettle of fish. They can not only bring the past to life, they can also create moments in the personal histories of student’s lives that mirror the burning, lasting effect tide-turning events have had on the zeitgeist of nations.
The huddled masses beholding liberty
One such moment of gravity awaits students on history school trips to New York. Peel back the highly anticipated glitz, glamour and fame that embodies the Big Apple, and at the kernel of this grandiose metropolis lays the aspirations of the humble. Students can read about how New York is built on the dreams of poor immigrants who flocked to Ellis Island; but when they too travel by boat to the island, stare up at the beacon to the huddled masses, the Statue of Liberty, and feel awe at the journey of those who risked everything for a new nation, they will have a memory to last a lifetime.
The graves of soldiers never to be forgotten
Some of the best school trips, like the best memories, are not filled with rainbows and sunshine. The sombre moments cast long shadows that nonetheless illuminate and shape the minds of young people. An unforgettable example of this lies under the deceptively placid green fields of the Somme, Ypres and Verdun. The guns may have long stopped firing and the shells may be buried in peaceful soil, but the sacrifice will not be lost on future generations. It is one thing to read about this; but it is quite another thing to stand huddled at the break of dawn, shiver at the call of the bugle, and capture a sense of the sheer loss of life that occurred on these green fields not so long ago.
The dust of the stadium that marked an empire
Ancient history can seem to be just that: ancient. For many students, it is a struggle to relate to people from antiquity whose lives seem so remote and removed from their own. But school trips to Rome can turn tired disinterest into a memory that will remain with students long after they have had children of their own. To stand on the sandy, dusty ground of the Coliseum, and to look around at the crumbling yet still proud ruins of an amphitheatre that once saw such fame, glory, death and fanfare, will touch souls with the might of the great empire that once ruled supreme from the Eternal City.