Monday: Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center
Easily the most "school-like" trip we took. Our tour guides had the students break off into groups to "research" certain areas of a larger 1936 Olympics-themed exhibit. (So interesting - did you know the tradition of the torch relay started in Berlin, thanks to Adolf Hitler?) Then we all met together while each group "taught" the exhibit assigned to them.
I can't give an accurate portrayal of the museum itself, since I was too busy herding middle schoolers (and, honestly, trying to remember the names of the 10 I was responsible for - I don't ever work with the 8th grade), but I can say the tour guides are dedicated and the collections are extensive - as the guides repeatedly told the students, "Everything in this museum is real." This trip was both educational and sobering.
Tuesday: Cantigny Park
This trip was my favorite - I've never been to this city getaway turned public park and museum, and it was the perfect mix of structure and free time for the kids. We got tours at the First Division Museum (an immersive/interactive history lesson from the POV of the 1st Infantry Division) and the Robert McCormick Museum (a guided walk through McCormick's sprawling mansion), plus time to explore Tank Park (11 tanks from WWI through Desert Storm - and yes, they're okay to climb on. They survived war, I think they can handle a bunch of 13-yr olds.)
I'm really hoping I can visit Cantigny again, hopefully with friends/family instead of teenagers. For the price of parking, you get admission to both museums plus all the gardens/grounds. This would make a great day trip!
Wednesday: Museum of Science and Industry
I've been here before, so all I'll add is this: it is impossible to keep 10 students in one area when there are tornadoes to walk through, submarines to walk around, and most importantly a giant mirror maze to get lost in. (Note: Never send children back into the maze to retrieve lost wanderers. They will just get more lost together.)
Thursday: Northwestern University and Bahá’í Temple
On this day, the students received tours at Northwestern (from former students) and at the only Bahá'í House of Worship in North America (from a current member of the Bahá'í faith). It was a day for getting out of comfort zones and imagining life outside of their middle school bubble - we challenged the students to think about where and what they would like to study after high school and to view the world through someone else's perspective. Although not all of the students were ready for the maturity that higher education and religious discussions require, a good number of them rose to these challenges, asking relevant questions and sharing honestly about their beliefs.
Friday: Logan Square Scavenger Hunt and Koz Park Games
We kept it local on Friday, touring the neighborhood and taking photos at pre-determined locations, then meeting up at a nearby park to compete in a few relays and field day activities. This was our most relaxed day, and a great way to end the week in a semi-celebration of all our time together.
All-in-all, I enjoyed meeting a few new students (even if they graduate next week) and it was refreshing to be out of the classroom! I recommend extended chaperoning to anyone with some spare time, a joy of sharing experiences with students, and lots of energy.