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... 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! 

Friday, April 20, 2018

Tacoma Symphony

We had the opportunity to go see the Tacoma Symphony preform a show at the beautiful Pantages Theater. The students were enamored with the ceilings in the theater. They had the unique experience of sitting in the box seats and overlooked the orchestra as they played. The students moved and grooved to the music, sang along to some of the songs, and learned about one more organization in the Tacoma community.

Monday, March 19, 2018

YWCA Visit

We went to visit two great non-profits last Thursday. The first was the YWCA, a place that helps women and children who are victims of domestic violence. We got a tour of the main building, which houses offices and classrooms and has lawyers on staff to help those in need. The murals in the classroom hallways are vivid and 3-dimensional and were a highlight for the students. They heard about how supporters of the YWCA could purchase an animal on the wall, and "How much did that animal cost?" was a frequent question as we toured. Time and attention were taken to make sure the space was inviting. The students also heard about the apartments just down the street that house clients who need a place to stay until they can find a place to live. There are bars on the windows to protect the people living there, but again, care was taken to make them look like art. The students were amazed at the care and detail that went into the artwork on these, and one students marveled at the attention that went into letting the people living there know that they were important and that life is beautiful.

We also got to go out on the balcony to see one of the best views in Tacoma! 

One of the highlights of our visit to the YWCA was hearing about the new building that they are planning to build on their current parking lot. They have raised about 10 million dollars already and are just about to begin a campaign to raise another $10 million. We heard about what needs to be done to raise that money, inspiring one student to choose the YWCA as the non-profit he wants to help.

We also had a great visit to the Tacoma Rescue Mission, a group of homeless shelter for men, women and children, and people with disabilities. We went to the men's shelter, which is the main campus. Here we were given a tour of the building, got to see the donations center, and heard stories about people who were helped by the shelter. One of the big take-aways for the students was that homeless people aren't just people who are addicted to drugs or alcohol,  but are often people just like them who have other circumstances that contribute to their inability to pay rent. It definitely inspired empathy in the students. 

Next up, the students will be filming the interviews with their non-profit of choice, and the community service projects will begin. 

Friday, February 9, 2018

Washington State Capitol

February 8th was Gifted Ed day at the Washington State Capitol. It was great to participate in the discussions about how and why to talk to the legislature to ask that all students get screened for giftedness. We had a good discussion about whether having all students screened in the public school would be a good thing or a bad thing for Seabury. The boys had good observations about how this would help our school, in that more people would be labeled and know to look for a school like us! We wore green scarves all day to show we were there for Gifted Ed day and saw some really great things.

There are 42 steps up to the capitol building. Why? Because Washington was the 42nd state in the US.

The presentation was in the Columbia room. This room has a domed ceiling, and we heard that if you whisper on one side, someone on the other will be able to hear you. Unfortunately, we didn't get the chance to try since the room was pretty full of people. 

Here we are in the gallery of the House of Representatives. We got to see them vote on a number of bills, including a few about education. There are 98 representatives in the Washington State government, two from each district. 

We also watched some votes in the Senate too. There, each person was called individually and answered yea or nay. In the House, however, they used a board seen in the background here. Each person submitted their vote on a machine at their desk and it came up automatically. The boys figured that it was easier to take an oral vote in the Senate since there are only 49 people. They also conjectured that since the Lieutenant Governor who presides over the Senate is blind, it is better to vote orally.

While waiting for our tour to start, we went outside to see a rally for early childhood education happening on the steps of the capitol. While he was hard to see, we did hear Governor Jay Inslee speak!

The metal doors on the capitol are very impressive and show many aspects of life in our state. 

This GIANT chandelier hanging from the rotunda can hold a Mini Cooper car!

Finally, the boys were able to relax on this furniture that is original (although has been recovered) to the capitol. This was in the ballroom where the Governor's Ball still takes place!

We had a great time seeing how bills are passed. Did you know that only bills that are guaranteed to pass are actually voted on? One of our representatives met with us lunch and told us that!