On Tuesday, February 6, Aucilla Christian Academy fourth and fifth grade students visited the Florida Capitol in Tallahassee. Representative Halsey Beshears graciously sent one of his staff members, Amanda, to meet them at the bus. The students and their chaperons were dropped off behind the building so as they climbed the steps they could view the beautiful dolphin statues.
From there, they walked through a security check, and took an elevator to the 22nd floor. From this height they could see much of Tallahassee, including area parks, FAMU, FSU, local churches, and government buildings. They also were able to walk through an area showing the current collection of artwork on display. There were many beautiful pieces of art representing Florida.
They were given a short tour of where the Senate meets to debate and vote on bills. Then they went to the House of Representatives, and were invited to sit in the actual chairs the representatives sit in and ask questions. They talked about the room, the desks with the voting buttons, where the Speaker of the House sits, and then were asked if they knew how to pass a bill.
After some discussion the clerk asked who had ideas about a bill that should be passed. The students shared so many good ideas it was difficult to pick just one, but the clerk settled on one idea presented by Tyler.
Tyler's idea was to raise taxes to make higher education free to all who wanted to go to school. Much to everyone’s surprise, the clerk invited Tyler to the podium to defend his idea. As this was happening, Representative Beshears entered the Chamber. He took some time to speak to the students and answered a few questions.
The student representatives were allowed to direct one question to Tyler. He did his best to answer them. Then, he was given a few minutes to defend his position and the students were allowed to vote using the buttons on the desks they were sitting at. It was very exciting. Unfortunately, his bill did not pass.
Representative Beshears invited the students to lunch near his office. He treated them to a wonderful meal and then they headed over to the old Capitol building for a short visit. They would have stayed longer, but didn't want to miss the chance to see Representative Beshears speak at a committee meeting.
After returning through security, they hustled over to the hearing room where they were graciously acknowledged and welcomed as visitors. Then, the representative in charge of the room singled out Suzanne and made sure everyone knew her dad was going to speak. He presented a bill that he is working on about invasive species, feeling confident that the committee would agree to the bill. Just as they practiced earlier with Tyler’s bill, Representative Beshears spoke to his committee, and then answered questions from the group before him. The representatives and his committee decided to have some fun and ask a few questions that had everyone in the chambers laughing. Representative Beshears was being teased by his colleagues, but handled it quite well. In fact, after they voted 'yes' on moving forward with his bill, the speaker commented to Suzanne that her dad was a 'rock star'.
The students had a fantastic time and learned about how a bill gets passed, heard about the Capitol’s history, met some wonderful people, and can’t thank Representative Beshears and his staff enough for taking time out of their busy schedules to show the students around and treat them to a wonderful lunch. And, thank you to Mrs. Christy Grant for setting up this trip with Representative Beshears.
Mrs. Jennifer Falk is a 4th and 5th grade teacher at Aucilla Christian Academy.