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Draper Journal

Capitol field trip includes surprise encounter for some Draper Elementary fourth-graders

Jan 03, 2022 02:32PM ● By Julie Slama

Draper Elementary fourth-grade students take a break from their capitol tour to sit on the marble steps. (Photo courtesy of Amy Beckert/Draper Elementary)

Fourth-grader McKay Cotterell was at the Utah State Capitol for the first time along with his classmates on a field trip to learn about Utah’s history.  

They had completed a tour where he was impressed “how really clean it is and how our really good tour guide told us about the paintings and statues with a lot of detail and even took us down to show us what would happen if the capitol was in an earthquake.”

Now, McKay and his group were on a scavenger hunt, which he admits was “kind of hard,” when they talked to a “really nice, tall” man who pointed out where they may be able to find some of the answers.

Their chaperones, Heather Morgan and his mother Suzy, told the group that the man they asked was Gov. Spencer Cox.

Although finding the governor wasn’t on the scavenger list, McKay thought it was pretty “cool” meeting him. 

While not all 120 Draper Elementary fourth-graders had the opportunity to meet Gov. Cox, they did get to meet Rep. Steve Eliason, who talked to students about the process of a bill becoming a law.

“He showed us a video about a bus accident at a railroad tracks and how kids died sadly from it. He explained how the things changed into a law, so buses now stop, look and listen at railroad crossings,” McKay said.

Fourth-grade teacher Amy Beckert said that Eliason said that Utah’s deadly school bus accident may be the basis for the “School House Rock’s” song “I’m Just a Bill,” which first aired as an educational Saturday morning cartoon. 

Eliason also shared with students that he helped create the bill that made it possible for their field trip buses to be funded for the program, which was presented by the Capitol Preservation Board and visitors center.

Students also asked Eliason how he works his regular job at a hospital in addition to being a representative and what it means when the legislature is in session and what he did as part of that. 

Fourth-grader Hazel Rensch appreciated learning from Eliason.

“It was really cool to be able to talk to a real person who works there,” she said.

Their capitol tour included learning about the state seal, which they sat around; touring the gold room; and seeing former Gov. Gary Herbert’s portrait hung by all the other former governors’ paintings. They also visited the House of Representatives, the Senate and the former Supreme Court, which now is used for ceremonies.

Hazel said she liked learning about the history of the capitol in its “mini-museum” as well as all the “rooms of the government, and especially the big room with all the desks where we learned about why it is important to make all the rules that help our entire state.”

It was Hazel’s first visit inside the capitol.

Her teacher wasn’t surprised.

“Probably about 90% of our fourth-graders have never been to the capitol. They were so excited, it was like going-to-Disneyland excitement,” Beckert said, adding that many of them didn’t even remember the last field trip they took as second-graders since during the COVID-19 pandemic year the school didn’t go on field trips. “The capitol is an iconic symbol downtown so this was an opportunity to show them what it is, to learn the inter-workings of government, and learn that they can participate and speak their thoughts. The government is represented by the people and is here for the people.”