BLOOMDALE – Elmwood High School students, parents and teachers recently traveled to Europe and had many first-time experiences, including eating escargots.
Heidi Meyer, a history teacher at the high school, presented a slide show of the trip to the board of education at its Aug. 8 meeting.
The July 14-25 trip to England, France and Germany was to visit World War II sites.
They started in London and ended in Berlin, Meyer said.
They visited the Imperial War Museum in London, plus the Houses of Parliament, St. Paul’s Cathedral and Big Ben.
“We saw a lot,” Meyer said.
The tour director took them on more than what was originally planned, she said.
The ferry took six hours to cross the English Channel to Normandy, where they walked on the beach made famous during D-Day on June 6, 1944.
“This was probably the most influential place for these kids, even for me and this is not my first time going,” Meyer said.
Their tour guide had each of them write a letter as if they were a soldier crossing the channel in World War II then had them walk into the water on Omaha Beach and read the letter.
“We all bawled,” Meyer said. “It meant something.”
Many students collected sand from the beach to bring home, she said.
“It’s awesome for our kids to experience what I teach in class,” she added. “You can’t do this in a classroom.”
The group also visited the Normandy American Cemetery, the Caen Memorial and the Utah Beach Museum.
The trip was during the highest heat wave in European history, with temperatures hitting 107 degrees, Meyer said.
With that heat and no air condition, what the group did was bond. They took over the hotel parking lot and played cards.
“We all became a big family,” she said.
They stopped in Rouen and visited the Cathédrale Notre-Dame before entering Paris.
While in Paris, students had the opportunity to see the twinkling lights of the Eiffel Tower at night. They were able to visit the Arc de Triomphe and the Louvre, as well as the Palace of Versailles, a former royal residence located outside the city.
An unplanned detour north to Belgium took them to the Ardennes American Cemetery, where Bloomdale High School graduate Harold Flaugher is buried.
“How awesome to be connected to our kids,” Meyer said, and praised their tour guide for making that happen.
Photos were taken and given to Flaugher’s family members still living in the area.
While in Belgium, they visited Bastogne and the location of the Battle of the Bulge and saw the foxholes that still littered the area.
On the train ride to Berlin, the group stopped in Cologne, Germany, and visited another cathedral.
Once in Berlin, they stopped at the Brandenburg Gate and saw the remains of the Berlin Wall. They also visited the Topography of Terror Museum, which sits on the sight of the former Gestapo headquarters; the former Luftwaffe headquarters; Jewish memorial; and the site where Hitler’s bunker once stood.
The males in the group met up with an exchange student and got to see Checkpoint Charlie, which was the best-known Berlin Wall crossing point between East Berlin and West Berlin during the Cold War.
They also visited Potsdam and its castle in Germany.
Their last day was spent at the Sachsenhausen concentration camp outside Berlin.
“This was a very moving experience for everybody,” Meyer said.
“Everyone was really tired, but we had a blast. We saw a lot. This was a very intense tour,” Meyer said.
Elmwood student Zackery Gross tried escargot and loved it while Delaney Blake was impressed by Buckingham Palace.
Brionna Camden, a 2017 graduate, said her plans to become a tour guide were cemented on the trip.
The concentration camp was different than what she pictured, wrote EHS student Julia Gross in a trip follow-up.
Student Maggie Bentley also was impressed with seeing the concentration camp in person.
Also on the trip were students Ema Lee, Solanna Riddle, Tanner Pennington, Ashleigh Burks, Mary Deitrich, Erin Harris, Zeigler, Shane Camden, Emma Worley and Makaylee Rochowiak.
Chaperones were Derek and Heidi Meyer, Emily Reynolds, and Jeremy Lewin, a Northwood High School social studies teacher who traveled with his daughter, Amelia.
Adults that also took the trip were Trevor Bingham, Jordan Noftz, Jessica Rochowiak, Jeffrey Noftz, Diane Reynolds-Miller, Angie Blake, Heather Rice, Eddie and Victoria Riddle and Michael and Sonja Brand.
Meyer said she and Lewin are planning a joint history trip in 2025.
“This was an awesome experience for our kids,” she said. “You gave our kids an experience they’ll never have in the classroom.”
“Life is never the same when you leave the country,” said board President Debbie Reynolds.