DA 5th Graders Tour Colorado State Capitol

Hannah Crawford, DA Elementary School Teacher
Third quarter is known as the big quarter, the long quarter, the never-ending, I-thought-February-was-the-shortest-month quarter! But, I love the third quarter! I love it because it is an uninterrupted chunk of time to get into whatever the subject may be. The third quarter social studies unit for Ms. Mesker’s and my fifth-grade classes was civics. I know you don’t usually think of civics and government in general as every fifth grader’s dream, but boy howdy, did we enjoy this unit!

We started the unit by recapping the general history of the first settlers in America, the foundation of the 13 colonies, the rise of British taxes, and, of course, BOOM, POW, the Revolutionary War. From there we started to examine the Constitution and how it set a plan for our government. We learned about the three branches, the checks and balances, and the first 10 amendments to the Constitution - the Bill of Rights. We introduced and learned about all this on the national level, but at the end of the day, the Capitol, Supreme Court, and White House are very far away. Luckily, our state government is just right down the road! 

During the second week of March, 26 DA fifth graders made their way down to the Colorado State Capitol to check out the government in action. We enjoyed a general tour of the building, climbed up to the dome, asked questions, and reflected in both the House of Representatives and Senate rooms. The absolute highlight of the trip was our meeting with Speaker of the House Rep. Alec Garnett. Speaker Garnett is in his last year of representing House District 2, the district Denver Academy is located in. Speaker Garnett set aside 15 minutes of his very busy schedule to connect with our students. The fifth graders started the Q&A with some general questions about the job, what he likes, what the weirdest bill he ever passed was, and why he chose to become a legislator. Then the hard-hitting questions came out. One student asked about Colorado’s plan to preserve our environment, while another asked about current poverty rates and inflation. Another student asked about a bill she helped with that provided more support for dyslexic students… it passed! All the adults in the room were truly blown away by these brilliant future voters! Speaker Garnett answered all their questions and left them with a little bit of advice, saying that he found the key to being successful in the Capitol building, but also in life, was to listen. He encouraged our fifth graders to enter into conversations with an open mind and to listen to what other people are saying, then work together to find solutions. 

It was an incredible end to one of my favorite units!