Eighth grade visits Capitol Hill

Eighth grade visits Capitol Hill

To put their learning from government class into perspective, eighth grade students visited Capitol Hill on April 10 for a field trip. Throughout the trip, students had the opportunity to grow their understanding of the United States government, and all of the purposes that it serves for the Jewish community and the State of Israel. 

Capitol Hill is a neighborhood in Washington D.C. that is home to many important government institutions such as the U.S. Capitol, Senate, Houses of Representatives, Supreme Court and more, all of which are taught in the eighth grade government class. 

Students learned more, however, from congressional hearings that they watched and discussions with assigned representatives and senator’s offices at the Senate Chamber and  Senate Office Buildings. Eighth grade students held a Model Congress, a simulation of the House of Representatives, on March 11 and 12, which prepared them for their visit to Capitol Hill. 

“They do Model Congress, so this is really a chance to see what it really looks like,” Middle School English Language Arts and Social Studies Chair Deborah Feigenson said. “So they’ve done the simulation, they understand it, and then they can actually see what lawmaking and congressional representation looks like. But also, they get a chance to meet with their representatives and express their opinions.”

Eighth grade students divided into small groups to explore the Supreme Court, Capitol, House Chamber, Senate Chamber and afterwards, the Botanic Garden. The focus of the day, however, was meeting with representatives and senators’ offices. Students filled out worksheets beforehand so that they would be ready to ask questions in their meetings about topics such as social media. In addition, students also research their representatives thoughts 

The majority of representatives that the eighth grade had planned on meeting with were either only available for a few minutes or unavailable, with the exception of Senator Chris Van Hollen who was able to engage in a full conversation with his group. Eighth grade student Megan Poretsky was pleased with how her meeting with the staff of Representative Zack Nunn went, whereas eighth grade student Isaac Janson felt the staff of his assigned representative could have been more thorough with their responses. 

“It was really cool being able to meet him, we didn’t get to talk to him for long because he’s a busy guy,” Poretsky said. “… He answered all of our questions about what kind of things he does in his position.”

Both Janson and Poretsky found the Library of Congress, the library and research service of Congress, particularly intriguing. 

“… The library of congress had this beautiful ceiling art that was so captivating for anyone who would see it.” Poretsky said. “The different images depicted on the walls and ceilings really inspired the creativity inside of me.”

Students also had the chance to observe the House and Senate proceedings of the day in their respective buildings, such as a debate regarding the distribution of funds to either the fentanyl crisis or impoverished African city states or a debate regarding abortion.

Feigenson hopes that eighth grade students take the value of involving themselves in their government away from their visit to Capitol Hill, and continue to carry this value with them into high school.  

“One student said, ‘You mean we can just walk in here anytime? It feels like it’s so open.’ And, for me, that’s what I really want them to get out of it,” Feigenson said. “It is the idea that government is not this sort of abstract thing that we don’t have any connection with, but that you actually can be directly involved in it.”

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Jonah Mitre
Jonah Mitre, Reporter

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