Tuesday, March 11, 2008

State Rpresentative Visits 4th Grade

Does anyone know our lieutenant governor’s name?” asked state Rep. Penny Bacchiochi (R, 52nd District). “It’s Michael... ” “Jackson!” shouted a student. After the good-natured laughs from students and teachers subsided, Bacchiochi quickly corrected the fourth-grade girl and explained that Michael Fedele was the correct answer.

Bacchiochi’s visit to the Stafford Elementary School fourth-grade class of Kelly Murdock was filled with many more laughs, as well as a good share of astute questions by kids who have been studying United States government and the state of Connecticut.

What can sometimes be a difficult concept to grasp was made kid-friendly and easy to understand by Bacchiochi, who spent approximately 40 minutes talking to students about many facets of her job and government in general.

Bacchiochi, who represents the towns of Somers, Stafford and Union, grew up in Stafford and now resides in Somers. She told the class that her love of the area was a big reason she wanted to become a state representative, but that being able to influence laws that affect the children and their parents was another of her major motivators. “A big thing we do in legislature is make laws,” she told the class. “We have 4,000 potential new laws every year. That’s what we start with in January , and by June, we’ve whittled them down to 400 laws to vote on.”

The children were eager to ask questions and were able to stage a mock vote among students to illustrate how difficult it is to please all the voters, all the time. Bacchiochi used the recycling issue to illustrate her point.

“Recycling is a big, controversial issue in legislature. People on both sides of the issue think they’re right,” she explained. The question of whether the state should add 5 cents to each bottle of water sold — to encourage residents to return the empty bottles for recycling to the store to get their nickel back — or whether the state should let people continue to recycle their water bottles by throwing them in their recycling bins at home, was posed. Is adding 5 cents to each bottle an incentive to recycle, or is it a penalty to those who are already doing it when they put the bottles in their bin for recycling? Children in the first row of Murdock’s class voted, determining that both sides had good reasons to vote the way they did.

Murdock’s students were enthusiastic to show Bacchiochi how much they knew about Connecticut, as they shared their knowledge of the state song, the state bird and other state facts. “Who is our governor?” asked Bacchiochi.

One student replied, “Jodi,” prompting more laughs, as Bacchiochi asked, “Your friend, Jodi?”
More amusement came when another student asked, “What do you do in the Capitol?”
Bacchiochi responded, “Have you ever had a day you just want to go home because your teacher talks and talks and talks and talks?” Everyone in class giggled as they seemed to recall days such as those. “Well, there are lots of days when I listen to people talk for six to eight hours,” she explained.

“Your whole job, do you just sit there?” asked another student.
“Actually, there’s a lot of walking,” said Bacchiochi. “It’s like having a math class, a science class and an English class all going on at once, and there’s going to be a test!”
The state representative had her own questions for the class, prompting some keen answers. “What if no one wanted to take care of the state of Connecticut?” she asked.
Responses included, “Everyone would go crazy,” “It wouldn’t be that organized ,” and an especially clever analogy from a student, “State government would be like a class with no teacher.”

Besides helping people and solving problems, Bacchiochi said her favorite part of her job was talking to students. “I asked if I could come here today,” she said. “I like to talk to classes because you will be running our state government, and one of you will be running the 52nd district.”

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