BLOOMFIELD, NJ — Demarest Elementary School students traveled to historic Philadelphia last week for the day. The school’s fifth-graders have been making the journey for years, according to Principal Mary Todaro.
“It’s a big trip that takes a lot of planning,” Todaro said. “For instance, getting tickets into Independence Hall. I don’t think a trip to Philadelphia is one that families usually take.”
Todaro expressed gratitude to the teachers, for the time they took to make the trip a success.
“They reported to school at 7 a.m. and did not leave until 5 p.m. when buses returned,” she said.
More than 90 students made the trip which was paid for by their parents. In the confines of the principal’s office with her participating, nine children talked last week about their experience and what they learned in the City of Brotherly Love.
Todaro got the first big response when she asked about those Philly cheese steaks. This was exciting stuff for the children and about half of them excitedly raised their hands when she asked who had sampled one.
Of course, there was also the cracked Liberty Bell to consider. It was once a church bell, the children said.
“You could not touch it,” Nadia Marquina said. “It was very polished and looked like plastic, but it was real.”
And there was also a visit to where the Declaration of Independence was signed — Independence Hall. All agreed that this is a very impressive place.
A trip to the birthplace of American independence is special to Todaro. She taught history for 20 years at Bloomfield middle and high schools and most enjoyed early American history, the U.S. Constitution and the Revolutionary War.
“I was a history teacher,” Todaro told the students. “Did anyone get goosebumps?
From their reaction, nearly all the children came away from Independence Hall with some goosebumps.
“They brought Abraham Lincoln’s body there when he was assassinated,” Malachi Goodman said.
Malachi said he also like the Benjamin Franklin Museum where he saw original chess pieces and Franklin’s drawing plans of the city. Marcus Arles and Joseph Weedo also liked the museum. Marcus said Franklin was 11 when he made his first invention — swimming paddles.
“His father was very strict,” Nadia interjected.
But as he helped to change history, the mention of Franklin, the multi-talented publisher, inventor and Founding Father, also changed the course 0611of the discussion. Todaro wanted to know the origins of the slogan, “Join or Die.”
“The French and Indian War,” the children responded.
“Join or Die” was a caption for an image of a cut up snake that Franklin published in his Pennsylvania Gazette to first organize Colonists against the French in the French and Indian War.
He later repurposed the caption and image to organize Colonists against the British. It is considered to be one of the first political cartoon published in this country.
Todaro mentioned “Poor Richard’s Almanack,” an annual also published by Franklin. She asked if anyone knew any of Poor Richard’s sayings.
The students did not, but the principal did.
“Both fish and houseguests begin to smell after three day,” she said.
For Ava Jandreau, the visit to Betsy Ross’s house was memorable. Ava said Ross did not own the house.
“The bed was original,” Eoin Clifford spoke up.
Hailey Mateo said she liked the Betsy Ross House, too, because you learned what it was like during the times she lived. One of the girls said Betsy had three husbands.
Jayden Hedgespeth, who also liked the Betsy Ross House, remembered the Franklin Mint where it was shown how pennies were made.
“The mint showcased the old machines, but you couldn’t touch anything,” Layla Burzynski said.
Todaro said the trip to Philadelphia was a great way to expose the children to the history of their country. In an email, she expressed this.
“We all know that students learn best when doing, being actively engaged in their learning helps student better understand and retain information,” she said. “It is great to read facts about the past from a book but how much more meaningful history or the past becomes when you have an opportunity to explore it firsthand. To visit the setting, walk through the halls and the streets, and see what life was like 200 years ago all provide our students with the mindset to understand and appreciate more clearly the significance of what happened in Philadelphia and in particular, Independence Hall, as our nation was born. This field trip gave our students an opportunity to become historians as they examined primary resources and returned to school to and write about their experiences.”
The Demarest Elementary School fifth-grade teachers are Jessica Barton, Karen Magliacano, Adriana Festa, and Rita Modzelewski.