The Regional District of Kootenay Boundary (RDKB) recently had the pleasure of hosting Grade 4 and 5 students from Christina Lake Elementary School (CLES) as part of Local Government Awareness Week. The students, under the guidance of their teacher Ryan MacGregor, spent the day at the RDKB headquarters in Trail, immersing themselves in the workings of local government and engaging in a range of educational activities.
The day kicked off with an exciting exercise where the students elected their own Chair and Vice Chair, giving them a taste of democratic processes. “I was glad I was chosen to be the vice chair. When the chair went to the bathroom, I got to fill in,” said Greyson, aged 9, enthusiastically describing her brief stint in leadership. Kenzee, aged 10, enjoyed the process as well, noting, “I enjoyed the silent vote for the chair and vice chair. It was fun to listen to their arguments and see who was chosen as a result.”
One of the highlights of the visit was meeting Ireland, RDKB’s Justice Facility Support Dog, who plays a crucial role in providing comfort and support to those in need. “I never knew Ireland, the dog, had to do all that stuff like go out and comfort people and calm them down,” said Lilah, one of the students.
The students also heard from various RDKB managers and the Regional Fire Chief, who gave presentations on important topics such as Water Conservation, Parks & Trails, Victim Services, Emergency Management, Fire Protection, and Solid Waste Management. Bentley, aged 11, found these presentations particularly enlightening, saying, “We’ve been learning about government and the RDKB in class so it’s been cool hearing from all the people who we’ve been learning about.”
A practical session on waste separation followed, teaching the students the importance of proper waste management. The day culminated in a mock Board meeting where the students debated and voted on ‘practice’ resolutions. They successfully passed a resolution to consider building a community garden in Christina Lake and also voted in favour of exploring the feasibility of constructing an ice rink in Christina Lake. “This is how things work at the RDKB table but remember it’s only a practice – don’t go home and tell your parents that an ice skating rink will be coming to CL without them having a say!” reminded Grace McGregor, Director of Area C – Christina Lake, with a smile.
Anitra Winje, RDKB’s Corporate Officer, who officiated the event, shared her excitement about the students’ involvement, saying, “It was great to share our passion for local government and the students were absolutely brilliant and so smart. The newly “elected” Chair and Vice Chair were grateful to be mentored by Chair Worley and the enthusiasm and interest of the whole group was evident throughout the day. They had a firm grasp on all the concepts we talked about, and engaged in some fantastic discussions and lively debates.”
Ryan MacGregor, the CLES teacher, emphasized the significance of such educational experiences, stating, “The purpose of education is to generate democratic citizens, people who can participate effectively in a democratic society. The point of government is to enact, to the best of their ability, what is going to make for a better future. If we don’t have people that are participating in that effectively with the knowledge and understanding of how important it is, we end up in rough shape. Having children understand government and constructive discourse and then being able to see it in action is what will lead us forward. The fact of the matter is that people will protect what they understand, they understand what they know and they will only know if they are taught.”
Grace McGregor was thoroughly impressed by the students’ engagement and preparedness. “Ryan prepared his students very well. We are completely impressed by their knowledge and interest in local government and would be happy to host more schools to build and spread that further amongst our youth. It was a lot of fun too.”
Linda Worley, Chair of the RDKB Board, echoes McGregor’s sentiments, encouraging other schools to reach out to the RDKB to learn about local government. “This is an event we would love to host every year. These kids are our future.”