8th Grade Chicago Trip


Eighth Grade Trip Expands Students’ Horizons


Eight months ago, the eighth grade class of Onekama Consolidated Schools first made plans for a three-day class trip to Chicago in May and a chance to see more of the world.

A school year of preparation, planning, and anticipation followed. Students contacted sponsors, organized fundraisers, researched the city of Chicago, made lists of places they wanted to see and activities they wanted to try, and started a correspondence with an inner-city Chicago classroom.

Individuals and businesses answered the students’ call, generously donating money or raffle items to help cover trip costs. Their teacher made contact with an eighth grade teacher at St. Sylvester School in Chicago, and students were partnered with a student in this classroom. A yearlong partnership began with the Chicago class, and students communicated long distance through email, FlipGrid, and Google Hangouts. 

Each month brought students closer to their fundraising goals and closer to the students in Chicago that they were beginning to call friends. They finalized the itinerary, and they learned every word to the Broadway musical Hamilton so they would be ready to sing along when they saw the show. 

At 4:30 a.m. on May 2, the Onekama eighth grade class boarded the bus and set off on an adventure. And, an adventure it was! Over the course of three days, they explored the Museum of Science and Industry, Navy Pier, Shedd Aquarium, Millennium Park, the University of Chicago, the Lincoln Park Zoo, and the John Hancock building. They saw Hamilton, ate deep dish pizza, gazed at skyscrapers, and took thousands of selfies. 

On May 4, they finally met the students of the eighth grade class of St. Sylvester School, with whom they had been corresponding since September. Upon meeting each other, students were hugging and high-fiving their partners, laughing and talking at ease. The two groups spent the better part of the day together, and there were a few tears shed as the Onekama students said goodbye to their friends and boarded the bus to leave.

The class trip accounted for many “firsts” for the Onekama students:  for 14 students, it was their first time in Chicago; for 6 students, first time out of the state of Michigan; for 5 students, first time staying in a hotel; for 7 students, first time in a museum; for 10 students, first time in an aquarium; for 19 students, first time seeing a musical outside of a school production; and for two students, it was their first time riding an escalator! 

As teachers and students debriefed after returning to school, it was evident that all project goals had been met or exceeded. Students returned to Onekama with a better understanding of the world beyond their village. They made friendships with students of a different background. They tried new things and discovered things about the city and about themselves. 

The Onekama students have completed their class trip. But their journey has just begun.