The Utah House of Representatives hosted Utah elementary students through their Civic Engagement Program this fall. There were three installments of this program involving the Jordan School District, Provo Peaks Elementary and South Jordan Elementary.

The Utah House of Representatives invited three elementary schools to participate in a hands-on law-making experience at the Utah State Capitol.
The Utah House of Representatives invited three elementary schools to participate in a hands-on law-making experience at the Utah State Capitol.

Most recently invited was a fifth-grade class from South Jordan Elementary. The class was selected and invited to come to the Utah State Capitol for a tour and a hands-on law-making experience.

“This is an education opportunity that hopefully will be important and impactful for the rest of their life,” Rep. Susan Pulsipher said.

Pulsipher selected Diane Witt-Roper’s fifth grade class to engage in this program. Witt-Roper is a Weber State University graduate who now teaches at South Jordan Elementary.

Elementary school students at the Utah State Capitol participate in  a mock congressional hearing.
Elementary school students at the Utah State Capitol participate in a mock congressional hearing.

The program began with the students taking a tour of the capitol building with a tour guide who provided a brief history of the capitol grounds. The students were then taken to the senate chamber, where they received an in-depth lesson on governmental processes and the tasks of local government officials.

The lesson they received goes hand in hand with the curriculum Witt-Roper is teaching. The lesson plan within the curriculum is titled, “We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution.” It is a textbook-based program designed for fifth, eighth and 11th grades.

One of the fifth-grade classes invited to the Utah State Capitol.
One of the elementary classes invited to the Utah State Capitol.

After going through the entire textbook, the class gets split into groups, and then each group studies one topic in depth. The students then write and present a speech to a mock congressional hearing at their school. At the 11th-grade level the students compete schoolwide, districtwide, statewide and then nationally.

“The important thing is for students this age to really start to understand that they are citizens, and that they have an important role in being part of a community,” Witt-Roper said. “This process that they’re learning is so important because they have a voice, even as a 10-year-old, that they need to learn how they can use that voice.”

Not every teacher chose to use this program, but Witt-Roper did.

“I choose to teach with it because it enhances reading, literature, writing aspects, group teamwork, free discussion and opinion,” she said.

The last activity the children got to participate in was a mock congressional hearing on the House floor. Prior to their visit, the class was given prompts and subjects that would be discussed.

Elementary school students participate in a mock congressional hearing at the Utah State Capitol.
Elementary school students participate in a mock congressional hearing at the Utah State Capitol.

They broke into groups and decided amongst themselves who would be reading the initial proposals, but all other discussion was not lined up for them. This gave the students an opportunity to develop their own thoughts and opinions regarding the issues at hand.

The issues included national ice cream day, earthquake safety day and whether only adults should be allowed to use social media. One of the fifth-grade students said they want to be a lawyer or entrepreneur when they grow up.

“This might help me know what’s going to happen and what to expect,” they said.

Witt-Roper said that the students need to be aware that they are in charge of their education.

“As educators, we are the tools to help them learn what they need to learn and grow, but that they are in charge of their own education, and the more self-confident they can be in that helps them,” Witt-Roper said.

This program is something that Pulsipher hopes to continue in the future.

“I’m really pleased that, in the house, we have been able to put together this program, and our staff has spent a lot of time working with different classes and giving them this opportunity,” Pulsipher said.

As the COVID-19 pandemic nears its end and a sense of normalcy returns to life, many hope that more opportunities like this will arise.

The Utah House of Representatives invited three elementary schools to participate in a hands-on law-making experience at the Utah State Capitol.
The Utah House of Representatives invited three elementary schools to participate in a hands-on law-making experience at the Utah State Capitol.
Share: [feather_share show="twitter, facebook, mail" hide="reddit, pinterest, linkedin, tumblr, mail"]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.