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by Keith Beebe
KANELAND—Few activities can hammer home the importance of a school subject matter like a field trip. And when that trip is to a state on the East Coast, then you’re talking about a one-of-a-kind learning experience.
And that’s exactly what Javier Martinez, a Kaneland High School social studies teacher, will have in mind when he, 18 of his students, a fellow teacher and a parent embark on a spring break trip to Northern Virginia in late March.
The trip is made up of students who are taking the new high school course, Armed Conflict and International Relations. The class teaches a mix of military history and political science.
“In conjunction with (the class), I made an offer to all the kids who were taking the class this year to put together a service trip to Northern Virginia to work with the National Park Service and do some battlefield restoration,” Martinez said. “The fact that (it’s the 150th anniversary of the Civil War) is almost just a coincidence.”
The group will stay in 1930s-era Civilian Conservation Corps cabins in Prince William National Forest during the trip and will cook for themselves to keep costs down. After arriving in Virginia on Sunday, March 27, the group will spend the week taking a trip to the Gettysburg battlefield; working to clear brush, rebuild soil barricades and, weather permitting, paint cannons and other battlefield artifacts in Spotsylvania; and sight-seeing at The National Museum of the Marine Corps, Arlington National Cemetery, the FBI Academy, the National Air and Space Museum, and some monuments located in the Nation’s capital.
Martinez said the Kaneland Social Studies Department had tried more of a sight-seeing trip in the past, but couldn’t drum up much interest from students. This year, they focused on kids taking the Armed Conflict and International Relations course with the assumption that those students had a strong interest in the D.C. area and the military’s legacy in the United States.
“A lot of the kids didn’t get the opportunity to go on the (eighth grade) trip to Washington D.C., so we thought we’d offer (this trip) while they are in high school,” he said. “And it just seemed to be a natural dovetail for this class to do some service work so the kids (could get) an appreciation for the history they learn in school, and at the same time help preserve it.”
The cost of the all-inclusive trip is currently $942, but Martinez hopes to dial down those costs a bit with a fundraiser that will take place on Friday, Feb. 25, at 7 p.m. in the KHS auditorium. There will be a screening of the award-winning documentary “Chosin,” during the fundraiser. The film, released last year to coincide with the 60th anniversary of the Korean War, is named for the Chosin Reservoir in North Korea and features Korean War footage and interviews regarding the battle between the 1st Marine Division and Chinese troops at the reservoir in November and December 1950.
Martinez said there is no cost to see the film, but students will be set up in the lobby to collect any donations during the fundraiser.
“We’re going to show the movie, and we’ve got a bunch of veterans coming out,” Martinez said. “My understanding, although I haven’t met him yet, is we actually have a survivor of the Chosin Reservoir War campaign coming out to the movie, and he lives in the area. It’ll be kind of neat to meet him.”