ASL Trip to Washington D.C.

April 03, 2024

Last summer Amanda Toomey and Rick Caceres used a PA grant to prepare for the first MMFS ASL trip. Over spring break, Rick, Amanda, Mary DeLouise, Beth Schneider, and Julie St. Germain took 28 ASL students to Washington DC. The jam-packed itinerary included visits to Gallaudet University and two restaurants operated for and by Deaf people, plus lots of sightseeing. This trip combined MMFS’s commitment to teaching a second language with its commitment to empowering students to become “contributing members of a global society” through travel and experiential learning. Here is a recap of a great trip. 


Day 1

The students started arriving at the Moynihan Train Hall 15 minutes early, signaling a great start to the first-ever MMFS ASL trip. Once on board the train—with trays down, snacks out, and phones on—everyone settled in for the trip to DC.


Arriving in DC, the group took the Metro to the hotel—two blocks from the National Air and Space Museum—before embarking on Mary’s World Famous Tour of the National Mall. Mary pointed out the highlights like the Washington Monument, the Capitol, and the various monuments and memorials, encouraging us to consider not just the structures but also the materials. Why, for instance, reflective stone and water?


Hungry and ready for dinner, the next stop was Mozzeria, a Deaf-owned and operated pizzeria. Amanda, Rick, and Mary reminded the students of phrases to use at the restaurant and encouraged them to push past being nervous. This was a “voice off” meal, so students used ASL with each other, too. Some students signed to each other and the waitstaff while others wrote notes. Mary, Rick, and Amanda helped out when needed.


After dinner, the group walked back along the Mall, and saw the White House and then strolled past the World War II Memorial with the Lincoln Memorial in the distance. By the time we arrived at the hotel, the students were more than ready to turn in. When the chaperones knocked on doors for lights out, several rooms were already sound asleep.


Day 2

Our day began with wake up knocks at 6:45. After breakfast, we headed out to the country’s only Signing Starbucks. The students practiced their orders before we left  and they were terrific about placing their order and interacting with the baristas. One student struck up a conversation with a family from out of town, and before long, many students and teachers were engaged in an ASL conversation with the family—even recommending they go to Mozzeria.


After everyone was caffeinated, the group walked to Gallaudet University, the world’s only liberal arts university for Deaf and hard of hearing students, and a highlight of this trip. The teachers reminded the students that we were entering a Deaf community and that this would be a largely voice off visit. The students were remarkable, challenging themselves to sign and meet their own personal goals. They shared what they had learned in their ASL classes about the founding of Gallaudet, using sign and spoken word. 


The group visited the Interpreting Center and took a campus tour led by a student who signed accompanied by a student from the ASL-English Interpreting program who used spoken language. The chaperones are eager to report to the MMFS College Guidance office that this group asked a lot of great questions about Gallaudet’s programs. (We were imagining future ASL-English interpreters among this group of students.)  Next we ate lunch in the cafeteria, and visited the book store. 


The next stop was the National Portrait Gallery, and then it was on to dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe. After dinner, the group strolled back to the hotel via the National Mall, with the Capitol and Washington Memorial illuminated against the night sky. 


Day 3

We got to the National Zoo just as it was opening and it seemed like the animals were just waking up! We spied bison, elephants, seals, reptiles, otters, lions, tigers, and US Division Director Mark Doty, who joined the group at the Zoo. Then the group headed back to the National Mall, splitting up to spend time at either the Air and Space Museum or the Museum of American History. Later, we gathered in the Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden to rest and soak up some sun. (It has been a little chilly). After dinner at Nando’s (a favorite of Mary’s) and Chipotle, the group went to a Washington Wizards game. We had several more guest appearances: MMFS Physical Education teacher Amin Linder  and Derrick Barnes and Arthur Temple—MMFS alumni who are freshmen at American University—joined us for dinner and Amin also joined us for the game. 


Day 4

We were once again up and out early for a walking tour of the Mall heading toward DC’s famous cherry blossoms, which were at their peak. Perfect timing! Then it was time for the train home.


All in all, it was a great trip. Everyone had a wonderful time, deepening their experience with ASL in real-life settings while exploring the attractions of Washington, DC—and logging about 35 miles worth of steps over the course of four days.

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