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Tualatin students hit the Capitol

Fourth-graders head to Salem, learn how government works

Fourth-graders from Tualatin Elementary School gathered in the rotunda at the state capitol in Salem on Friday.Before the traditional exchange of valentines last Friday, Tualatin Elementary School fourth-graders squeezed in a fact-finding field trip to the state Capitol to hobnob with senators and representatives alike.

“The students claim this was their favorite field trip so far,” fourth-grade teacher Janine Emken said. Her class was joined by the classes of Amy Amano and Michele Hole.

“We’ve spent the last couple weeks talking about the branches of government, what each branch does, and how they work together,” Emken explained. “Being able to get down to the Capitol building, and see it in action, on Oregon’s birthday — was really special.”

There was some benefit to being in Salem that day: The observation deck was opened in honor of Oregon’s 155th anniversary as a state of the union, Emken said.

“We got to climb 121 stairs, and we got to see from the coast range to the Cascade Range, 360 degrees. The students thought it was interesting because we were learning about the regions, too.”

But most students agreed their favorite part of the day was meeting elected officials.

Representatives Julie Parrish, R-Tualatin, and Margaret Doherty, D-Tigard, greeted the children. Parrish offered to visit the students in class, and Doherty was impressed by their understanding of government, Emken said.

Sen. Richard Devlin, D-Tualatin, met the students in the rotunda and, with all the kids seated on the stairs before him, fielded questions about his day-to-day job duties, and why it is bills bounce back and forth so many times between the Senate and the House — which, as the students saw firsthand, are quite literally across the hall from each other, making it a short trip.

Devlin’s own two children went to school at Tualatin Elementary. He said he’s happy to answer students’ questions, although he keeps words like “bicameral” out of his presentations, lest their eyes glaze over.

Which isn’t to say the students were anything less than excited to visit the two chambers.

“As soon as we came in both the House and the Senate, they said, ‘We have Tualatin Elementary School children visiting us today,’ and then they all turned around and waved,” Emken said. “My class just thought that was the coolest thing ever, that representatives and senators know they exist.”

And Tualatin Elementary students did see the process in action, witnessing the Senate pass a bill from the balcony.


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