The first Learning Standard in the Social Studies 10 Curricular Content list is “government, First Peoples governance, political institutions, and ideologies”. Coast Mountain Academy takes this as a clear sign that Grade 10 should be a year heavy on civics education!
Although in the past Humanities 10 has had a strong civics component, with separate units on political theory and Canada’s governance institutions, the in-class activities lacked the experiential flare that we strive for in all our programming. This year, Mr. Sharp remedied this by introducing a new trip that would enliven Humanities 10 and provide a logical precursor to the annual Humanities 12 BC Supreme Court trip that students take years later.
The Humanities 10 Provincial Parliament trip took advantage of the educational programming offered by the Legislature to give students a remarkable (and literal!) front-row seat to the democratic process they had been learning about all month. Their 4 week unit up to that point had covered topics from government jurisdictions and taxation, to the courts and the Canadian Charter, to the parliamentary system and legislative process. Emphasis, in general, is placed on recognizing the impact of government on our lives and what it is to live in a democratic society.
Despite the long travel day to Victoria via Nanaimo, this year’s Grade 10 class was greeted in the capital with sunshine and a seasonal warm Spring breeze off the harbour. Following a rushed group lunch at Frankie’s Modern Diner, the class walked the three blocks to the Parliament affording them a stunning first-sight of the historic building and lawns.
At the schools’ entrance, CMA was met by their tour guide ‘David’ and our local MLA (West Vancouver-Sea to Sky) Jordan Sturdy. Mr. Sturdy gave a warm welcome that included details about his role as our MLA and encouragement to connect any time as his constituents. CMA is grateful to Mr. Sturdy for taking time out of his lunch hour to meet us; as the afternoon session was soon to start! David took over at this point and began the tour there at the door with a comment about the Legislative building itself; the core of the structure having been designed by the same renowned architect, Francis Rattenbury, who worked on other notable Victoria landmarks like the Empress Hotel.
Once inside the Parliament building, students were generally astonished by the formality of staff going about their business and the lavishness of the interior. Marble floors and pillars, ornate wall paintings and golden polished fixtures made every room and hallway feel like the seat of power in our province. Stops on our tour included the broadcast room, where Chamber proceedings are officially recorded and broadcast, stained glass-adorned hallways, rife with symbolism, and the upper and lower Rotunda, from which students were lucky enough to watch the Sergeant at Arms, bearing the silver and gold Mace of Parliament, lead the Speaker into the Chamber for the afternoon session. The pomp and circumstance for this simple twice-daily occurrence impressed on the class the element of tradition that governance institutions hold.
This minor show was also the perfect precursor to David leading the way to the Gallery for the allotted time observing Chamber business. It was not coincidence that Mr. Sharp had booked the 1pm tour, since observation would coincide with Question Period; the confrontational and dynamic part of every day in Parliament, when the official Opposition has 30 minutes to grill the Government on any matter.
Filling into the Gallery seats above the Chamber, students were pleasantly surprised to be waved and smiled at by MLAs below as Jordan Sturdy entered into the official record an introduction of CMA to the Assembly. While seated above, students heard the First Reading of a new bill (that has been in the news recently!) proposing harsh new penalties for the non-consensual sharing of intimate images; this got students’ attention quickly! When Question Period started, students were glued to the MLAs as they stood in turn to fire back and forth at one another over the issue of Health Canada-sanctioned research into the production of heroine and other safe-supply narcotics in BC. The debate had only just begun though, when the class was briskly informed by security personnel that it was already time to leave to make way for the next group. Out in the hall, disappointment at having the show cut short was boisterous to the point that the group was hushed by a page!
Leaving the Parliament was bitter-sweet for the class with so much enthusiasm for the events observed. Who knew government business could be all sex and drugs? After a quick period of free time to explore the lawns and get an ice cream cone, the group mounted the bus for the long trip home.
Luckily, everything in the Chamber is recorded in HD and available online, so the following day Humanities 10 was able to watch the rest of the debate and have the rhetorical maneuvering of the MLAs translated by Mr. Sharp blow-by-blow. All in all, the trip and follow-up was a huge success and an ideal finish to the course’s Government Studies unit.
CMA intends to make this trip to Victoria an annual one. Thank you to students and parents this year for patience with the planning process of a new initiative!