Annapolis thrills, chills 4th-graders

May 02, 1994|By Liz Atwood | Liz Atwood,Sun Staff Writer

To a 9-year-old, John Paul Jones' crypt can be spooky place, the State House's stairway to nowhere can be an intriguing mystery and a glimpse of the governor a thrill to remember.

These warm spring days, fourth-graders from all over the state are taking in the sights of Annapolis. Yellow school buses roll down U.S. 50 carrying chattering children with brown bag lunches. Many start their visit with a boat ride in the Annapolis Harbor then a walking tour led by guides in Colonial garb.

The traditional class trip to Annapolis gives the state's schoolchildren the chance to see the homes and workplaces of the historic figures they've read about.

"This is the busiest time of year," said Pam Williams with Three Centuries Tours, which helps organize many of the school field trips in Annapolis.

For many children, such as Juanita Brooks of Frederick, the trip is their first visit to the state's capital.

"I can't wait to see the coffin," she said as she prepared to enter John Paul Jones' crypt beneath the Naval Academy chapel. "They say it's spooky inside."

Juanita was among 20 pupils in Phyllis Thomas' fourth-grade class at Waverley Elementary School in Frederick who toured Annapolis last week.

They had paid $6.75 for the day-long field trip, which began with a boat ride in the morning, included a walking tour of the historic sites, and ended with souvenir shopping on Main Street.

The children look forward to the trip all year, Mrs. Thomas said. They have heard about it from older children, and in the weeks preceding the trip they learned about Annapolis' role in Maryland history. On the day before their excursion, they even practiced walking in a tour group.

Once on their tour, they excitedly pointed to the centered door handles, which they recognized as features of Georgian architecture. And they looked curiously at the Colonial-era costume their guide, Pat Honeysett, was wearing.

Before the Herndon monument, Mrs. Honeysett explained how the plebes climb the greased obelisk to remove the freshman cap. The children laughed when they looked at a picture of the ritual.

Inside the chapel, Mrs. Honeysett explained its history and architecture. They paused before the stained glass window showing Cmdr. David Glascow Farragut, who uttered the famous words, "Damn the torpedoes. Full speed ahead." He was only 9 when he joined the Navy, Mrs. Honeysett told the class.

"Too bad we can't join the Navy," sighed Jason Burns.

But Chris Toft had only one thing on his mind. "When are we going to see the tomb?" he asked.

He was soon rewarded. The children fidgeted and giggled as they entered the dim underground chamber where John Paul Jones' sarcophagus lay.

They quickly circled the crypt, paused to look at the swords and bust, then emerged into the bright sunshine. Chris said he was not disappointed.

"I was scared half to death," he said. "I thought we were going to be shut in there."

Mrs. Honeysett escorted them to St. John's College where they paused for a class picture beneath the Liberty Tree.

On the brick sidewalk in front of the Hammond-Harwood House, she showed them an "idiot box" -- an 18th century wooden toy. As they rested in front of the State House, she explained the lives of the people of the 18th century, eliciting groans of disgust when she told the pupils that the Colonists bathed only two or three times a year.

Inside the State House, Mrs. Honeysett pointed to the doorway leading to the governor's offices. She showed them the Senate and Delegate chambers. One boy lifted the lid on a senator's desk and found a bottle of aspirin.

Then a little red-haired boy in an oversized T-shirt ran up to Mrs. Thomas. "Me and Lamar . . ."

"Lamar and I," Mrs. Thomas corrected.

"Lamar and I saw the governor!" he exclaimed.

Looking up, Mrs. Thomas glimpsed a bald head as it disappeared down a corridor on the second floor. "I think you're right," she said.

The tour ended at the State House, but the lesson wasn't over.

The class still had shopping to do on Main Street. "That's going to be their math class," Mrs. Thomas said.

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