If you could be a force for real, positive change in your neighborhood, community, or even state, what actions would you take? This is the question posed to our fifth graders each year when they return from winter break.
Since then, students have learned about the General Assembly in Annapolis, who their elected representatives are, and the differences between state legislation and national legislation. In addition to learning about how policy works, they researched upcoming bills in the general assembly, as well as issues that legislators may not be aware of yet. After researching written materials and online content, as well as taking in valuable information from guest speakers, the fifth graders wrote letters to their elected officials. These letters contained suggestions for making change, specifically about issues important to the students.
With letters in hand, the fifth graders made the trip to Annapolis to meet with state Senators and Delegates. Each student presented her letter, on topics ranging from equal access to quality health care to an outright ban on animal testing in the state. Some of the letters related to specific bills, such as the "Beagle Bill," and others contained suggestions for overall community improvement, including a proposal concerning the environmental health of butterflies. Students also had the opportunity to learn about the legislative session from the staffers who work in Annapolis every day.
During their tour of the State House, students were able to sit in the gallery and watch the House and Senate session and were acknowledged by the chambers as guests for the day.
The fifth grade also had the opportunity to meet with Governor Larry Hogan briefly during their visit. Seizing the opportunity, several of the students used it as an opportunity to discuss their research and concerns. Students spoke to Governor Hogan about providing equal education opportunities around the state, creating community libraries and other topics.
After their trip to Annapolis, the fifth grade returned to RPCS to keep learning about the legislative process in order to prepare for their trip to Washington, DC.
In Washington, DC, students had the opportunity to visit the office of Congressmen C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger where they learned from Ruppersberger’s aides about what a Congressman does and how legislative aides help in the inner workings of Washington, DC. From his office, students were then taken on a tour the Capitol.
As part of the tour, students visited the original Supreme Court and learned about the time Abraham Lincoln argued in that very room before becoming President. The tour continued on the ground floor of the Capitol, and students got to see a replica of the Magna Carta and stand in the center of the Capitol while hearing about the Rotunda. From there the fifth grade walked over to the Supreme Court.