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Exploring St. Augustine

Before dawn Saturday, 4/30, 34 sleepy but excited 4th graders boarded a comfortable charter bus and embarked on their capstone field trip to the oldest continuous European settlement in the United States, St. Augustine. They were accompanied by 9 equally tired, but excited parent volunteers and three teachers prepared for almost any eventuality. The weather cooperated delightfully; it was a beautiful day with a slight breeze, and the troupe made it to St. Augustine in about 3.5 hours – ahead of our scheduled arrival time.

After a brief shopping experience where students got to purchase some memorabilia to help saturate their impressions, we began our tour of the city. First stop was to a Native American museum where the students got tattoos on their arms and their faces painted as they viewed old relics dating back to the 1500’s. The experience also afforded them an opportunity to make Native American dangle necklaces out of shells and watch Ms. Bayer good naturedly allow herself to be adorned in traditional Native American attire. The group visited cool attractions, such as the Fountain of Youth. There they got to sample a taste of the fabled waters; the consensus was that the taste left a lot to be desired, despite its presumed age-defying properties. One of the most popular attractions was a tour of the Castillo de San Marcos, a coquina fortress built by the Spanish as a military post. Students were transported back hundreds of years as they surveyed the historic city gates, which served as an imposing reminder of the Spanish empire that once ruled the cobblestone streets.

Our group of curious explorers asked probing questions of the living historians, resplendent in their late 16th century garb, and watched in wonder as the 6-pound cannon belched smoke and fire. Breezy tram rides periodically afforded them opportunities to relax and enjoy a tour of the city as they passed along some of the oldest streets in the US. They caught glimpses of the oldest schoolhouse, a spiraling lighthouse, and several hotels, including the Flagler hotel which is now Flagler College.

After enjoying a pizza dinner in the park, we boarded the bus for the trip home. The tired ones drifted off to sleep as the bus smoothly traveled back to school while others recounted their favorite memories of the day. Everyone slept well that night, but they still continue to fondly re-visit their favorite highlights of this capstone trip, one of the last of their elementary school year experiences before they enter middle school.

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