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Learning early

From behind the dais at City Hall, the young girl listened to the differing opinions of her peers, carefully considering her options and the decision she was facing. It was the future of her favorite local park at stake.

Luckily for her, the proceedings were just a mock city council meeting that was part of a Pilot Point elementary field trip of city facilities. The hands-on civics lesson was a new addition to this year’s trip.

Second grade teacher Nancy Quinn worked with City Secretary Alice Holloway to do something different for the yearly event, including placing students behind the dais to serve as “council members” and others to act as “citizens,” asking questions and giving their opinions.

“Government is such an abstract concept, so we’re trying to help the students understand,” Quinn said. “We thought they could actually participate in city council.”

On the agenda was an item to decide which playground structure would be installed in the city park. Holloway said the experience better teaches kids than a simple tour would. The kids had to make a decision that would affect a group of their peers, some of whom would disagree regardless of the option they chose.

“It’s a lot of fun,” Holloway said. [Second grade] is very young, but they did very well. They’re doing it.

“It’s so much fun watching these kids. They’ve taken it very serious.”

Each class had already elected its mayor and council along with selecting which would act as the citizens. Holloway started off by swearing in each council member, explaining that the oath was a promise to serve the city.

She then had the mayor open the meeting and acted as the advising city staff member.

“Do not choose one just because your friends like it. You have your own vote,” Holloway said to the young council members.

The students also learned the importance of budgeting when one council member asked to add a pool to one of the options. Holloway explained that the playground option cost the full budgeted amount of $25,000.

“Oh my gosh,” the student said.

The second-graders also visited the police station where they were allowed to operate the lights and sirens of police cars. They also stopped by the Clifton and Nadene Irick Museum to hear a presentation by City Historian Jay Melugin on the history of Pilot Point.

Field trip stops also included the library, fire department and post office.

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