The Rural Municipality of Hanover council chambers were packed Wednesday afternoon. Dozens of residents filed in to meet with Reeve Jim Funk and Chief Administrative Officer Luc Lahaie.
However, the 65 individuals were not there to debate politics or voice any sort of frustration. In fact, they are still much too young to even vote and were offered juice boxes and Timbits for their snack.
The children are grade three and four elementary students from South Oaks School in Grunthal and their field trip to the Hanover municipal office was an educational experience to learn more about local government.
Teacher Bonnie Taylor says she thinks this is important because children do not often know or even understand what government does. She notes visiting the municipal office allows them to see the group of people who discuss the needs in their community and the problems that can arise.
“This field trip experience brings the idea of government more to a personal level for the students,” she adds.
Taylor commends Lahaie and Funk for an excellent presentation, explaining the roles and responsibilities of local government in a way that was easy to understand for her students. She says the students remained engaged as a result.
Following the presentation there was an opportunity for the children to ask questions. Taylor says her students wanted to know about taxes, how someone becomes a councillor, how long a reeve’s term lasts, what the municipality does with lost animals, whether Steinbach and Niverville are included in the RM of Hanover and who pays for the creation of parks.
Funk adds one child even asked whether Hanover would be paying for the Montana’s restaurant going up in Steinbach.
“Interesting to hear from the mind of a child,” notes Funk. “They are innocent, and they are true.”
Funk says it was really good for students to learn about local governance and to ask questions. He notes if they can hold onto even a little bit of what they learned on Wednesday, it might be a positive thing in the future. He suggests that maybe one or two of them could become a junior member of Council one day.
Taylor says as part of the tour, they also had a chance to learn about a fire truck and grader, which were parked on site.
According to Taylor, her students were thrilled with the experience. She notes one of the highlights was when the children sat in the councillor seats. Taylor also credits Funk for helping the students to better relate to government. She notes when the children asked how he became Reeve, Funk responded by letting them know that it was their parents that voted him in.
“He was demonstrating to the students the results of voting in an election and so I think for the students they felt like it became personal to them that Jim was actually a person that their parents voted for,” says Taylor. “And then one of the students enthusiastically exclaimed ‘That’s democracy!'”
Taylor says Wednesday was a full afternoon for her students and really exciting for them to actually see government in person.
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