Monday, November 6, 2017

Pierce County Auditor and City Officials Meeting

We had a very busy week last week. We first went to the Pierce County Auditor's office to see how ballots are counted. The boys learned that there is a machine that cuts the envelopes open, but then people actually check the signatures and remove the ballots (then mix them up so that it is impossible to see who submitted the ballot) by hand before they are scanned by a recently purchased computer system. We got to see the secure location where the ballots are stored and how ballots are corrected if there is a mistake on them. The computer system that reads the ballots compiles the information on their server, which has only internal wiring and no wifi and cannot be hacked. On election day at 8 pm (and only then) will the ballots quickly get tallied from the server. The whole process is quite fascinating!

After lunch, we went to the Tacoma Municipal Building to meet with a variety of division heads with the city. City Manager Elizabeth Pauli (who the boys have been begging to meet for weeks!) started off the meeting by welcoming us to the conference. We also heard from fire and police, the heads of public works and waste management, representatives from neighborhood and community services, the city planner, and the economic development director. The boys especially enjoyed hearing about how the city decides where things can be located and how Tacoma attracts businesses to the city. It was a very formal presentation, with us sitting on one side of the conference tables and the officials sitting on the other!

Monday, October 30, 2017

Center for Urban Waters and City Maps

The boys have had a great time these last few weeks. They visited one of the mayoral candidates in his campaign office and got a tour of all that goes into running a campaign. They also went to the Center for Urban Waters to hear about sustainability and the things the city does to support clean up of the Puget Sound.

Probably in their view, however, the best part has been creating their own county. They spent time drawing and coloring a map of their country and will create a brochure for it during upcoming classes.

Transioca: The citizens of this country have the freedom to:
  • say their point
  • have voting rights
  • all sexes have the same rights
  • have opinion and freedom
  • do what they want
This country has peace and harmony, protects its people, makes sure it's fair, and has a bright future. 

Calvania: The Citizens of Calvania have the freedom to:
  • leave to come in
  • make good choices
  • choose jobs
  • freedom
  • not break the law
  • perfectionism
The government is preparing to defend the country against: kale and vegetables.

Justice League and Avengers States: The Citizens of JLAAS have the freedom to:
  • eat anything
  • drive
  • choose things
  • love superheros
  • read
The citizens are only wealthy and have a holiday called Bacon.

Monday, October 16, 2017

County Courthouse and Police Headquarters

The Bridges boys had a fun-filled day last week. They were able to learn about the judicial branch of government first hand. First, they went to the Pierce County Courthouse, a few blocks up the hill. One of the boys noted that the Seabury middle school is in the perfect location to be able to walk to all of these places, a great example of how the city really is our classroom! While there, we heard from one of the county prosecutors, John Neeb, as well as a judge, Kitty-Ann van Doornick. The boys got to sit on the jury,

take an oath to tell the truth, 

get questioned by the prosecuting attorney, 

learn how a stenographer's keyboard works, 

and sit in the judge's chair, wearing her robe and using her gavel. 

In the afternoon, we journeyed to the Tacoma Police Headquarters. There, the boys got a tour of the station, saw where incoming prisoners are held and evidence is cataloged, learned about how Tacoma can afford a bomb robots (since they cost about $300,000+!), and got to try on the armor suit for disabling bombs. 

"My favorite part in the county courthouse was being questioned about robbing a bank. I learned lawyer skills because I paid attention in the court room, taking everything the lawyer said seriously. It was cool that the judge was cool because she had a gavel. I was amazed at the police headquarters because they had cool robots that helped them find bombs." -K.D.

"My favorite part today was the bomb robot at the police headquarters because of how much it could do. I learned a lot about what the role of a judge was and how to do and work it. It was cool to know that some lawyers can be calm/nice as well. But I was amazed on how big the county courthouse was! It was cool too!" -R.L.

"My favorite part about the county courthouse was the weird type writer. I learned that the juries are in control of the case. It was cool to wear the judge's robe. I was amazed by the weight of a small bomb suit. It weighs about 70 pounds." -C.S.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Mayor Strickland

The 5th grade boys were able to spend some time talking to Marilyn Strickland, the mayor of Tacoma last week. She explained to them why Tacoma started using the strong city manager form of government (corruption, of course!) and what makes her job as mayor so fun. She also spoke of the challenges Tacoma faces and what makes Tacoma so great. They were excited to be able to answer some of her questions with information they had learned the week before from the assistant city manager! She also had some advice for the students as they continue through schooling and showed us her awesome balcony that overlooks the city!

When we returned from our visit, the boys were asked to write about what they learned from Mayor Strickland.  Here is what they wrote:

I learned that taxes are going up and property tax is going up more because Tacoma is one of the top cities for growth. She also said to go to college outside of the country you live in (for a semester or year). Also, she said to go and learn languages. We have advantages living in Tacoma because we live on the water and have good weather.

I learned that taxes are slowly going up in Tacoma because people are coming and the city is growing. In college, if I have the chance, I should travel and learn to fluently speak another language.

I learned that the property taxes are growing higher but they can also sell the houses for more money. I learned that Tacoma is a mid population city.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Meeting the Assistant City Manager

We had a great meeting with the assistant city manager, Tadd Wille, last week. The students vowed to "act mature" and represent Seabury well. They did a good job of that from the moment we walked in the door.

We had the opportunity to hear about why Tacoma has a council-manager type of government and looked through the book for Tacoma's budget. The students were surprised by the amount that was spent biannually in Tacoma. Be sure to ask what the budget was.

We also played a game to review all that we learned. The boys asked some great questions and enjoyed their time with Mr. Wille.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Washington State History Museum

We went on a great field trip to the Washington State History Museum last week. The students found out how Tacoma became a city and why. Students also learned about the early jobs in the area and what like was like during the war. They had a great time learning all about Tacoma.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Around town

The students began learning about government in the Bridges program.  They began by learning about the 3 branches of government, which can apply to the US federal government and to how states are run. The students also discussed how federal and state governments differ.

They learned that counties and cities are run differently. The students did some research to find out more about the county government. They learned that Pierce and King counties have a county government with a council and an executive. They then went on a walking tour through downtown to see the city and county buildings that are so close. They discovered that many of the county offices are within a block from each other and theorized as to why. They saw where the county jail and courthouses where and discovered that many law firms are in the area too. The students also learned that Tacoma is the county seat for Pierce County. Last, they created brochures for the county and its government.

After a brief tour of the area, the students played a game of "I wonder" with different buildings in the area (I wonder what that building is.). They had to lead the group to the building to discover what it was. In the process, they quickly learned more about different things in the community, including public and privately owned art installations.