Students at Cedar, Quadra and Sayward elementary schools were among those treated to a lesson in parliamentary democracy when the Honourable Linda Reid, Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of BC, visited their communities this month as part of the “Speaker in the Schools” educational outreach program.
Dressed in her robes and as a non-partisan representative of the Legislative Assembly, the Speaker brings a unique credibility and perspective to this program that is geared towards children in grade five and six.
Reid engaged the children in a mock parliament, debating ‘bills’ on issues important to them and their communities, such as graduated licensing and bear hunting quotas. Teachers in the participating classrooms were sent a teaching package in advance to prepare the students and help produce a successful visit in which students were challenged, interested and participated in discussion.
At each school, students donned the robes and assumed the parts of Speaker of the House, Clerks of the House, Sergeant-at-Arms, and members of the legislative assembly to experience what it is like to consider and debate a bill in the BC Legislature. The debates were lively and inclusive, as children voiced their opinions and voted on motions.
“As a former teacher I enjoy visiting classrooms and engaging children around our democratic system,” said Reid. “I trust some of these children will be inspired to serve in the public domain.”
Students debated a fictional bill on whether or not all school districts should be required to purchase iPads for every student, teacher and administrator in the province to improve classroom technology and student learning.
Cedar Elementary’s mock legislature had a lively discussion initiated by pretend Minister of Technology Jordan Shaw, overseen by pretend Speaker of the House Chantelle Lebeuf, and ‘recorded’ by clerks Savannah McKinnon and Daniel Knowles.
Students weighed the merits of improved technology against a funding implication of no arts, sports, and field trip opportunities for at least five school years with student MLAs taking turns to speak, both for and against.
Student Sky John’s speech, in her role as an opposition MLA, even prompted a hug from the real Madame Speaker.
The local stops were part of a three-day tour of North Vancouver Island. It included visits by the Speaker to both Eagle View Elementary and Gwa’sala-’Nakwaxda’xw School in Port Hardy.
Reid was join at all five schools by North Island MLA Claire Trevena, who added her own perspective as an elected member in the Official Opposition, explaining what’s involved in representing her constituents in Victoria.
The intention of the Speaker in the Schools parliamentary education program is to bring lessons on democracy to classrooms that may have more difficulty, because of distance, in making a trip to parliament in Victoria.
Previously, Speaker Reid has visited Haida Gwaii, Williams Lake and 150 Mile House.