Eighth-grader Pearce Bloom asked for a trip to Washington, D.C., for Christmas.

He's been there several times before with his family, but when he travels with classmates to the nation's capital this weekend, he'll also have the chance to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington Cemetery.

Pearce will be one of almost 100 students from the York Suburban and West York Area middle schools to take the trip this year, organized by retired teacher Sharon Stutts.

In past years Stutts organized eighth-grade trips to Williamsburg, but she switched the location this year to be more in line with the topics eighth-graders are studying in the classroom.

Stutts said she has a passion for travel and for education, knew of opportunities for schools to participate in the wreath-laying ceremonies, and contacted Arlington officials last fall to allow some of the students to participate.

Two boys and two girls from each school will participate in separate ceremonies, which happen every 30 minutes at the tomb.

The students will also observe the changing of the guard at the tomb.

Pearce said his love of history and his family heritage draws him to Washington, D.C.

Three of Pearce's great-grandfathers and one of his grandfathers served in the infantry during World War II, a grandfather served in the Navy, an uncle serves in the Army, and his stepfather served for more than 17 years in the Army.

"I go every year," Pearce said. "I love it."

An honor: But for as often as Pearce has visited the city, he's never been to Arlington, and he said he's looking forward to the honor of being one of the students from York Suburban to participate in the wreath-laying ceremony.

There are certain dress requirements — males need to wear ties to be in the ceremony, for example — but Pearce is taking it a step further, wearing a suit he bought for other formal occasions.

"I'm getting all spiffied up," he said.

Students will take two buses down to Washington Saturday morning, when Stutts will be their tour guide around the city.

She's already gathered information she'll share with the students at each stop, including the cemetery, many of the memorials and the Smithsonian.

Students will stay the night in a hotel — under the care of teachers who double as chaperones for the weekend — before going to the King's Dominion amusement park for a recreational day Sunday.

For Stutts, continuing to organize trips past her retirement is a way for her to stay connected with students and to see the joy on kids' faces as they encounter things they've never learned before.

"It just does your heart good," she said.

— Reach Nikelle Snader at