As a teacher, I believe in imparting lessons through complete immersion. And so I dragged my 8th grader, mandated to take the Illinois Constitution Test this year, and his outgoing little sister, to our state capitol yesterday to be Honorary Pages for the Day on the Senate Floor where they could get an up close look at how that document plays out "in real life". My son had begged for the opportunity--but that was before he learned he needed to wear dress pants, shirt and a tie for the gig. Whereas my girl was excited to wear a pantsuit a la Hilary Clinton, my son is most comfortable in his track suit. But off we schlepped on our first Amtrak adventure. Since it was cheaper on cash and Mom's energy than driving, I thought it was brilliant- but the journey got mixed reviews from my kids who might be a little too used to the Mom-mobile, also known as the "trailer" (for all the times we use it to get into wardrobe for shoots). We crashed in a Ho-Jo's (yes they still exist, and this one had a really comfortable bed) and were up and at 'em bright and early. Son got to borrow a spiffy jacket with a Page logo as pictured, and off they went to the Senate floor, to committee meetings, amidst the Charter School rally, and all the the fireman and paramedics in town to lobby. I got to poke around the historic Lincoln sites while they worked their running shoes off---LOVE the museum. Some highlights from die kinder: my daughter found out that politicians are funny--she thought they were all serious and dry, and is relieved to know that the folks making decisions have a sense of humor. My son discovered that the job of a Senator is really hard, and it's impossible to stay on schedule--tough lesson for someone with OCD, but he seemed to roll with it! Our senator is a warm hearted fellow, and Jewish too, which my kids loved--especially his story about the Obama Hanukkah party. He made the day fun, and his generous spirit is inspiring--my kids are fired up to work on his next campaign. He has great back-up too--the hidden and most necessary angel of our day was his legislative aide. This woman, calm, organized, endlessly helpful, was put to the test with the Gluten free Problem, and she went the distance TWICE to assure that Alec got lunch. She took the kids on a tour of the capitol, and my son noted that many parts are as beautiful as an art museum. This aidde, after a very long day--it looked like a 12 hour stint from the printed sheet---she goes home to sit and watch tv---NO--to serve on the schoolboard!!!! This lady has politics and helping her community in her DNA--and because of her, my kids got the life lesson that getting laws made is chaotic, messy, filled with meeting people and running up and down marble staircases and legislatures are made up of hard working good people. We were actually THERE when the piece of legislation that our family most cares about: the film tax credit extension, was debated and PASSED!!!! How cool is that? I was afraid that my kids were turned off to the legislative process after the ordeal getting the chicken ordinance passed in our town, but now they are much more interested in some of the laws that they saw passed, and one that did not pass. We had a thoughtful discussion on the way home about sometime the intent of a law is good, but it is not worded correctly or has unintended consequences that are bad.
I scored high for that theme based immersion learning experience.