(October 3rd, 2018–Jersey City, NJ) The 8th grade class at Explore Middle School visited the New Jersey State House for the “Make-a-Law” program and a special guided tour.
Supervisor and Social Studies teacher, Jamie Velazquez, knew the 8th-grade class was going to embrace and enjoy this field trip. “This is always one of my favorite school trips. We started with a guided tour of the State House, specifically the General Assembly and Senate Caucus Room. Then the students participated in a “make-a-law” program where they were “sworn in” and assumed the role of lawmakers. They took on the role of lawmaker and went through the process of bill passage by engaging in a debate, navigating a negotiation, and finally compromising.”
During the “make-a-law” program, the students were asked to consider a currently proposed bill, No. 2135. This bill, designated “Steven’s Law,” prohibits the use of non-wood bats in organized baseball games in which minors are participants. The students were first asked to debate the pros and cons for banning aluminum bats and the use of wooden bats.
Kimonye Mays argued that not only would wooden bats be safer for those playing in the game, but that the wooden bats could be more environmentally conscious than aluminum bats. “If a wooden bat is broken during a game, the wood could be salvaged and used again to make a new bat. If an aluminum bat is damaged, I’m not sure how it could be recycled.”
Ziggy Panchenko shared that bats shouldn’t be banned rather different bats should be used for different age groups. “Young kids, like in little league, should not be using wooden bats. The bats are too heavy plus at that age young kids wouldn’t be hitting the ball that hard. Older players, like in high school, should be able to use aluminum. Maybe they could wear protective gear.”
After a heated debate and the addition of an amendment that players wear protective chest gear, the group of young lawmakers finally agreed on the bill and it was sent on it’s way to Governor Murphy.
The students were given a guided tour of the Senate Caucus room, shown a display of the flags of the different counties throughout New Jersey, and had a viewing of the Red Oak tree statue. Many of the students also went to view the World War II memorial garden.
Finally, the students were given a very special tour of the General Assembly. The students were honored to be given the opportunity to sit on the the General Assembly floor in the assembly members’ desks. They were then surprised by a visit from Assemblywoman Angelica M. Jimenez.
The 8th-grade class was eager to ask Assemblywoman Jimenez questions specifically how she became involved in politics. Ms. Jimenez explained that her parents were fortunate to escape the communism of Cuba and come to America decades ago fueling her passion and dedication to social activism.
Explore is currently in the midst of a Human Rights Thematic Unit which the students immediately shared with the assemblywoman. Ms. Jimenez expressed how proud she was of all the students and encouraged them to get involved with community advocates and stay as active as they can.