A Real-Life Government Lesson: 6th Graders’ DC Trip Adjusts to Shutdown

Apr 6, 2011 1:13pm

There are some unintended consequences of looming government shutdown.

Amy Looman’s sixth grade class is getting an unusual lesson in U.S. government.

Sixth graders at Colrain Central School in Massachusetts  are scheduled to visit the nation’s capital next week. But they could find that all the buildings their predecessors have visited before for 20 years – the Smithsonian museum, the national zoo, Congress and Pentagon – are closed.

The government will shut down Friday at midnight if members of Congress aren’t able to hatch a deal that would keep federal agencies funded. But the sixth graders are coming no matter what.

My colleague Steven Portnoy at ABC radio talked to Looman about how she is altering the trip:

 Listen to it HERE.

Steven: Amy, first of all, tell me about this trip you guys have planned?

Amy: It’s a tradition here at Colrain. We’re a small, rural school in Western Massachusetts and the trip is about pushing 20 years old. We every spring bring the kids down for a week to see the nation’s capital and all that it has to offer and all of the sights and sounds.

Steven: That’s awesome. I remember from when I was a kid growing up how excited I was to have my first trips to Washington. Typically speaking, what happens over the course of this trip that you guys have been doing for so long? What kind of sights do you show?

Amy: We spend a lot of time around the mall. Certainly many of the Smithsonian museums and the zoo is always a highlight and the last two years we’ve gone in for a tour of Congress or Pentagon, and last year we were fortunate enough to get in for a White House tour.  

Steven: Well I’ll tell ya, I don’t know about the White House tour, but almost every single thing you mentioned there would be impacted if the government does shutdown on Monday so has that been a part of the discussion at the school this week?

Amy: It sure has. It sure has. We would have to drastically alter our itinerary and our plans.

Steven: Tell us about some of the concerns, if you have any, that you might have going into this with the possibility of a shutdown to the kids. Are they following the news?

Amy:  Well of course the concern is we’ve spent all year talking about some of these different places with the kids and the kids have been researching different sights and things that we have traditionally visited and planned. And so there’s been a whole lot of buildup and to think that we could get down there and then not be able to see those things or go to some of those places is certainly a bummer. Washington is a great city and it has other things to offer but our whole trip has been planned around those existing things.

Steven: Anything sticks out in your mind you really hope will stay open?

Amy: The kids really want to go to the zoo. That was the thing they were most disappointed to hear they could miss. But certainly all of the museums on the mall are just fantastic and I would hate for them to miss that opportunity.

Steven: Tell us about what discussions you have had cause sounds like you’ve already broken the news to the kids. Are they following the news?

Amy: Well we , current events is part of our class everyday so it was a natural conversation to have with them as far as what had kinda been going on with the news.  And theres’ a lot of questions beyond just how it would impact our trip, including how could you shutdown a government? What does that mean? And that kinda thing. And then what plans we may have to alter and that. It was kinda just a normal conversation for us to have.

Steven: I can tell you we, I’ve been asked some of the same questions, how do you shutdown a government. I’m not sure I can answer.

Amy: O I can promise you I can’t.

Steven: Well how is that going? Are the kids really understanding the dynamic? Are they frustrated? Do they get it?

Amy: No they don’t get, I don’t think. It’s certainly something as you and I just said, I’m not sure I get it. It’s certainly is beyond their understanding of the reasons why it would happen and all of that. And they’re certainly frustrated to think these things that they’ve been looking forward to since September may not happen. 


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