Middle school students run city hall for a day
Seventh graders from The Sanibel School had a chance to experience the legislative process from behind the dais.
Most islanders can only imagine what they would do if elected to city council, what changes they would make or laws they would pass, but students learning about civics and government were actually able to use council chambers to hold a mock debate for the annual Student Government Day.
Each student had a role serving as mayor, a member of council, or city staff, and two students even gave public comment. They also toured the Police Department, Natural Resources, and other city departments.
On Dec. 6, they debated whether horses should be allowed on island beaches. Mayor Kevin Ruane guided the students through the legislative process and answered questions about how council did its job.
“I enjoy doing it,” said Ruane. “It gives us an opportunity to educate our students as future leaders in government.”
Kathy Jones, history teacher at The Sanibel School, said the city has been hosting Student Government Day for over 12 years.
“The new curriculum for seventh grade is now civics,” said Jones, who added that she used to bring eighth graders through their American History class, but switched to seventh after the curriculum changed.
So far the seventh graders have studied the Constitution, Bill of Rights, and will begin studying local government after their trip to city hall.
“The kids really like it and they are surprised about how much they learn,” said Jones.
City Manager Judith Zimomra said three of the city’s recent interns went participated Student Government Day when they were in middle school on the island.
“Our young people all go on to do great things,” she said. “Even if you aren’t going for a career in public service or government, it’s always good to know how your local town works.”