A Cruise of Cohorts

Lincoln with Washington from river

The Lincoln and Washington Memorials at sunset as seen from the Potomac River. This grand staircase was designed so that visitors, coming in from the sea and Chesapeake Bay, would dock here and climb the stairs for their first glimpse at our Capital.

Our second day of the Teacher Innovator Institute (TII) in Washington, D.C was a Sunday and a chance to get acclimated and become acquainted with each other before the actual workshop begins. I walked to the National Cathedral and attended services. As a group of both cohorts, we took a cruise on the Potomac River to Old Town Alexandria.

Flame of fire windo

A stained glass window representing fire (the burning bush, perhaps?) in the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.

I had visited the National Cathedral once before in 1982 when I lived in Alexandria and worked as a Congressional Intern for Senator Hatch of Utah (who only just retired this last year). Back then I only had a mid-range Ricoh camera without SLR or many focusing or lighting options. Now I have a full SLR digital still and video camera and Adobe Photoshop at my command, so I can do many more things under poor lighting than I could then. I didn’t dress up as I wasn’t planning on attending services but mostly wanted to get some photos of the stained glass windows for when I can complete the Stained Glass Elements Unearthed video started ten years ago.

Mass Ave stroll

My walk down Massachusetts Ave. to the National Cathedral.

National Cathedral was only just over a mile from our dorms at American University. I grabbed my camera and water bottle and headed out after breakfast, walking down Massachusetts Ave. staying as much in the shade as possible. There were quite a few trees until I got to the top of the hill and cut across to the cathedral. I took photos outside and then walked in through the main doors into the nave. Services were going on and I was told not to take photos until after, so I decided to stay and attend after all. The National Cathedral is an Episcopalian Church and services were done in English, with a set structure to the liturgy and a printed program. Chairs were set up all along the nave and across the transept and most were filled. A visiting choir from Ireland provided some hymns, and others were sung by the congregation while standing. Some parts of the liturgy were recited by the Dean, others repeated by the congregation. There were two short sermons, baptisms of about eight babies, and the presentation of the eucharist. Even though this was not a Catholic Mass, I gained some points to add to my Golden Apple book about the structure of the services and the cathedral itself.

Stain glass-blues-Natl Cathedral

Beautiful stained glass windows in the National Cathedral.

Just this last week, as I write this, the leaders of the National Cathedral issued a call for more civility in our discourse and courtesy in everyday life. The text of the sermons given during the service was the Parable of the Good Samaritan, and out need to help each other. I find these messages resonate with me, personally, not just because I am a religious person but because of the great need I see for our nation to come together, not be further divided. How can we ever accomplish something as grand as the Apollo program again unless we put aside our differences and come together. It took a national commitment to get us to the Moon. It will take another commitment to take us back and on to Mars. If we cannot agree to do this and get our hopes and energies behind it, then what hope can we have as a people? A house divided against itself cannot stand.

Cathedral through trees

The National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. as I approached it through the trees.

With services over, the congregation was served coffee and donuts while I wandered around and took photos of various parts of the interior, including the stained glass windows with the Space Window that contains a moon rock donated by Michael Collins, as this was the school he attended. I also took photos outside before walking back to the dorms.

Cathecral west facade

Rose window on the west facade of the National Cathedral.

It was a quiet afternoon and I tried to get to know more people in my cohort. I had not been able to open the five locks on the small breakout lockbox that contains our ticket for tomorrow’s breakfast, so I spent some time asking people for hints about how to proceed. My mentor teacher from the 2018 cohort only contacted me once, then I didn’t hear anything more and I found out that she is not here this summer because of a family problem. But other teachers in my cohort were able to give me a starting point for the directional lock, which was the photo of the original Mercury Seven astronauts. I had opened three of the five locks by the time we left for supper.

Space window 2-better

The Space Window in the National Cathedral. In the center of the red circle at the top is a moon rock donated by Michael Collins from the Apollo 11 mission.

About 5:00 a group of us ordered two Ubers to take us to Georgetown to a restaurant, where some of the 2018 cohort were already eating. It is an underground speakeasy kind of place where I ordered some excellent buffalo wings for supper. We then had a short walk as a group down to the waterfront and the docks just upriver from the Watergate complex, where we were to board our cruise. There was a silver Rolls Royce and a black Ferrari parked there while we waited, and I finally met Shannon for the first time. She gave us our ticket vouchers and we boarded the ferry about 7:00.

Bell tower

Bell tower of the National Cathedral. I almost expected Quasimodo to peer from the windows.

It was a pleasant ride down the Potomac. I had never seen Washington, D.C. from this vantage point before. We floated past the Watergate buildings and the Kennedy Center, then under some bridges past the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials. We crossed the river just above the bridge leading from Alexandria to National Harbor, which I crossed back in 2014 when I attended AAS at the Gaylord Resort, which I could see just beyond the bridge. It was a lot colder then, with one of those polar vortexes and bitter wind in January. Now is was a hot and humid July day.

Cohorts mixing

Teacher Innovator Institute cohorts walking to the ferry at Georgetown.

We unloaded at the Old Town docks and had about an hour to explore before heading back. I walked with Jay, my roommate, and Colleen up to the city hall, but it was a Sunday and not much was open. I would like to come back and see the apothecary shop. We did stop for ice cream at a little shop, and I got a double scoop cone with a wonderful chocolate with sprinkles on the bottom and a mango ice cream on top.

Rolls and Ferrari

One thing about being in D.C., you see a better class of cars. Here are a Rolls-Royce and a Ferrari in the same photo.

We boarded the return ferry and pulled away from the dock. The sun was near setting as we headed back up the river, passing the old radar installation at the Naval Research Station. The Capitol building was glowing in the late afternoon sun, and by the time we pulled even with the Jefferson Memorial (which is under repair) the light was turning magenta. I took some great photos of the Washington Monument lining up with the Lincoln Memorial and a set of grand marble stairs leading from the Potomac up to the National Mall, originally designed to give visitors (who would have come by sea vessel back then) a grand first impression of our capital.

Ferryboat docks

Ferryboats at the docks at Georgetown. The Watergate Complex and Kennedy Center lie downriver.

We returned to the Georgetown docks just as the sun was setting. A group of us, mostly 2018 cohort who knew this part of the city better, walked up a few blocks and caught a Metro bus back to Tenleytown. I got to know Amy, an art teacher from Utah who is at Freedom Academy and who had visited Walden School back when Josh Graham was on sabbatical. The university shuttle bus wasn’t running, so we walked from Tenleytown back to the dorms, a little over a mile.

Alexandria City Hall

Old Town Alexandria city hall and fountain.

The 2018 cohort has already been here for a week and have renewed their tight association from last year; as the original experimental group they bonded closely and many of them have gone to conferences and presented together throughout this year. I’m trying to learn everyone’s names as soon as I can and talk to as many as possible. Some of the 2018 group, such as Trevor and Leann, have been very welcoming and helpful for us newbies.

Plane cloud and fountain

Fountain, cloud, and airplane over Old Town Alexandria.

I’ve done a lot of walking today and have pushed my gimpy right leg a bit too much. It is trying to swell up on me. I tried to keep it elevated while talking to people in my cohort in the lounge area on the 5th floor once we got back. I can tell it will be a strenuous two weeks. I was able to solve the other two locks and got the final lockbox open. It was quite the feeling of accomplishment.

Capitol from Potomac

The Capitol Building at sunset from the Potomac River.

Washington and Jefferson

Washington Monument and Jefferson Memorial at sunset from the Potomac River. The Jefferson Memorial is being rennovated.

Watergate at sunset

The Watergate Complex at sunset. An infamous event occurred here in 1972 that eventually brought down a president.

Cruise pano small

A panorama of the teachers on board our return ferryboat on the Potomac River.

Locks open

All locks open. The small black lockbox with my ticket to the breakfast in the morning is open at last, with a little help from my friends and cohort.


About davidvblack

I teach courses in multimedia, 3D animation, Earth science, physics, biology, 8th grade science, chemistry, astronomy, engineering design, STEAM, and computer science in Utah. I've won numerous awards as an educator and am a frequent presenter at state and national educator conferences. I am part of the Teachers for Global Classrooms program through the U.S. Department of State and traveled to Indonesia in the summer of 2017 as an education ambassador. I learned of the Indonesian education system and taught classes in astronomy and chemistry at a high school near Banjarmasin in southern Borneo. I am passionate about STEAM education (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics); science history; photography; graphic design; 3D animation; and video production. This Spaced-Out Classroom blog is for sharing lessons and activities my students have done in astronomy. The Elements Unearthed project (http://elementsunearthed.com) will combine my interests to document the discovery, history, sources, uses, mining, refining, and hazards of the chemical elements.
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