The fifth graders recently went on a field trip to the Rhode Island Statehouse. However, this wasn’t just a typical tour of the beautifully historic building. We had a special half hour meet and greet with Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea, which included a round table panel discussion! In preparation for this memorable visit, the students visited the web page of the Office of the Secretary of State, and learned about the responsibilities of this elected official and how her number one priority is making government more accessible and transparent for the citizens of RI. After reading and discussing the information on the web page, students then wrote a few questions that they wanted to ask the Secretary when we met her later that morning. I was very impressed with the curiosity and the genuine interest the students had in learning about government offices and officials, as well as the intellectual and sophisticated questions they wanted to ask at the round table discussion.
Students asked questions such as: “What was the hardest part, in your opinion, about running a campaign for office, and ultimately winning the position?” and “What are your plans to improve the election process? What did you do to make housing more affordable for families in Rhode Island?” After our meet and greet, we went on an incredibly informative tour of the statehouse and the amazing questions continued to flow. Our tour guide commented that she had never met such a curious, well-informed, knowledgeable group of fifth graders. When we returned to school, I felt a deep sense of pride that my students were able to engage in a meaningful discussion with an elected official about the future of our state, which ultimately will be in their hands one day.