Challenging concepts taught solely within the four walls of a classroom can often leave students uninspired and disengaged. Our community of 4th grade educators understand that, and one of the highlights of their year is taking advantage of real life learning through an exciting field trip to Lansing.
In preparation, the class studied a preview of what they would be experiencing during the trip. This included: a review of the three branches of government – how they work, how they differ, an overview of Michigan congress members – how bills are developed and passed, some focus on the current governor, and an overview of the time periods of Michigan history. Setting the stage for the visit increased the impact of the trip tenfold as students consistently made (excited) solid connections from the classroom to the tours of both the State Capitol building and the Michigan History Museum.
Many students have never been in such a historic building before and were in awe of the architecture and ornate decorations that all have symbolic meaning. When students discover that the floor in the rotunda is made of glass, they are often a little intimidated, but docents quickly put their mind at ease: the 976 squares of glass are held in place by a cast iron frame, making the floor strong enough to hold over 40 tons of weight! They also find that the best view all the way to the top of the dome can be found by laying flat on your back.
Students were really excited to learn that our state politicians actually do work in Lansing and that it wasn’t just a fancy building for show. The group had the chance to go on the senate floor and spend a few minutes asking Senator Roger Victory some questions about his job.
Representative Luke Meerman was in the office that day as well, and he gave students some wonderful advice about never giving up on their dreams.
After the Capitol tour, the group went to the Michigan History Museum. Students were intrigued by the history of “logging” in Michigan and spent time debating logistics of how it was transported before cars and trucks. Other favorite museum exhibits include feeling what a horse and buggy ride was like, feeling animal pelts from the fur trade, walking through a mine, and interacting with an early 1900’s classroom. Students take back valuable information and experiences from the trip and draw on those as they dive deeper into Michigan History and Government in the coming months.
I’m so thankful that experiential education through real world exploration is a reality for our students. These hands-on experiences help our students gain perspective and develop critical thinking skills along with academic learning. These are lessons that will stay with them for a lifetime and strengthen their understanding in the classroom.
There are nine acres of hand-painted decorative art throughout the building, sharing stories from Michigan’s past. It’s a lot to take in!