Monday, December 10, 2018

Superior Court Visit


We were excited for the opportunity to learn more about the judicial system this week with a visit to Superior Court Judge Kitty Ann van Doorninck and her staff.
We got to see what a court room actually looks like, and experience the view from the judge’s chair.  Some students were surprised at the size of the courtroom, expecting it to be bigger. We watched how a court reporter uses a special type of shorthand typewriter to record every word said in court, so that there is an accurate record of what occurred in case of an appeal. We sat in the chairs of the jury in the jury box and also around the conference room table in the deliberation room, and learned about how important it is for people to serve on jury duty.
Assistant Prosecuting Attorney John Neeb also came in to answer a barrage of questions about different types of cases, levels of crimes, the difference between the prosecution and the defense, and all the nuances of how a trial works. In their thank you letters, students said:
“I learned that judges aren’t always mean and {they} don’t bang their gavels a lot.”
“I learned that being on jury duty is a lot more complicated than most people think.”
“I enjoyed learning about the different people that work in the court.”
“I liked getting to sit where the lawyer would be in front of the bar.”



Monday, October 29, 2018

Making Friends at Kings Books

Kings Books, a local independent book store, sponsored Seabury's book fair this year, so during one of our afternoons at the middle school, which is not too far away, we decided to walk over and have a look.

I have long been a proponent of indie booksellers like Kings. All of the members of my family, all avid readers, have bookshelves next to our beds instead of bedside tables. When traveling, the first place we seek out is the local bookstore, with it's great recommendations and local community happenings. I have spent many happy hours perusing dusty shelves and I credit  indie bookstores with helping to develop my child's voracious reading habits.

So an hour out of our day to explore some new reading interests seemed a worthwhile pursuit. The resident cats were a big hit...


...as were many of the great books!

Thanks, Kings Books, for partnering with and supporting our community and school!

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Visiting the Pierce County Elections Office

Students in the Bridges program have been learning about the importance of voting while participating in a series of iCivics lessons leading up to a mock election.

As part of our preparation, we visited the Pierce County Elections office.

  A: "Voter ballots go through multiple processes before getting counted up for election day. First, the ballot gets sorted to see if it has the correct signature. If it does, it continues in the process. If it does not, a message gets sent to the voter telling them they need to come in and re-validate their signature."

J: "They take the ballots, scan them in a machine, take a picture, and separate them into the ones that pass the inspection."  

K: "The envelopes go through the machine a second time, where the bottoms of the envelopes get sliced open so that the "Secrecy Envelope" can be taken out."
E: "They cut the end of the envelope off so they can see who the person voted for, but not the person's name."

 K: "The yellow boxes are the ballots that are in the process of being sorted."


J: "The green boxes are where the envelopes that have passed inspection and been sliced open go. They are taken to another room where the secrecy envelopes and ballots are separated before the ballots are scanned and counted."

K: "The last room is where the ballots are counted. First, they scan the ballots. It is also where people look at ballots that have been mis-marked to see what the voter intended, so that they can count all votes." 

E: "The thing that impressed me the most is how many things they have to do before they actually count the votes."
K: "I was impressed by the ballot sorter machine. I think having really smart machines helps them throughout the process."
A: "What really impressed me was how they sorted it and how efficient the process is. They went really far to make sure no one tampered with the votes."

After our visit, we read, researched, and discussed some of the main initiative measures, then held a mock election. Some of the initiatives seemed easy to decide at first, but after we read the arguments for and against, the issues seemed more complicated. We had some lively discussion, then voted by secret ballot. These students are ready to start voting NOW!



Overall, we decided that voting is not easy. It takes a long time (and some hard work and research) to truly understand the issues, but it's worth it to have your voice heard.

 Don't forget to vote Nov 6th!

Sunday, October 21, 2018

A Visit to the Capitol

We decided to start with the big picture and began learning about the functions of the different branches of Washington State Government, so we took a trip to Olympia for a tour of the legislative building.

Here we are standing on the steps in front - it's an imposing structure!

Our tour guide was a former staffer whose enthusiasm was contagious.

The view of the cupola from the inside.

Sitting in the balcony of the chamber of the House of Representatives.

Overlooking the main hall. This is a public space where people can hold receptions and even weddings.

The Olympians got to sit at the conference table in Governor Jay Inslee's office. Here they are surrounding the chair he sits in to sign legislation into law.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

The city is our classroom!

The fifth graders take to the streets of Tacoma on Thursdays to discover what makes a city work.
The first day, we walked from the Middle School (MS) down Pacific Ave to the University of Washington, Tacoma, noting things we saw along the way: theaters, banks, restaurants, museums, and things like the Tacoma Pierce County Chamber of Commerce and the U.S. Courthouse. 
 The second day we walked to Wright Park, noticing more public art, the Tacoma Municipal Building, garbage trucks, police and sheriff vehicles in front of the Pierce County Jail, the Pierce County District Court, Superior Court, many attorneys offices and the Tacoma and Manuscript Library.

We enjoyed some of the public art we had never noticed before, such as this piece, the Projecting Drop by Jill Anholt, and browsed the University Book Store before returning to the MS to join the students there for lunch at the Farmer's Market.

We ended the day with MANY questions:
What is the difference between a county and a city?
Is there enough housing for everyone?
Where does trash go?
What are the different rankings or levels of police?
How many different types of courts are there?
How many judges are there?
What is the crime rate in Tacoma?
Why aren't there more parks and green spaces downtown?
Why is the link system only on one side of downtown?
What is the income level of people in Tacoma?

We have a lot to learn about this city and how it works in the months to come -- stay tuned for further adventures!


Monday, June 11, 2018

Community Service Deliveries!

The students all had very successful community service projects. They were excited to hand deliver the giant checks and any goods that were collected. In total, the kids raised $1580.





One organization in particular wrote about how moving it was to see such young kids making a difference the lives of others. Truly touching indeed. Well done, Bridges kids!

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Wastewater Treatment Plant

A *slightly* smelly outing to the Tacoma Wastewater Treatment Plant showed us the major process that sewer water goes through before being added to Commencement Bay. The students got to see how the water is combed for particles bigger than a half-inch before going to large tanks where it is again sifted on top and bottom. The sludge is then added to a large tank with pure oxygen (also created on site) and turned to methane gas. The city is going to start selling the methane gas to Puget Sound Energy to offset the cost of running the plant. The students learned that the water that looks cloudy towards the end of the process is just filled with good bacteria, and they were able to see just how clean the water gets before being gradually piped into the bay. It was a little smelly, but the students quickly adjusted!