Guest Speakers Turn Life Experiences into Classroom Lessons

Sept. 14, 2017 ~ During a week of special events leading up to Constitution Day (Sept. 17), first-graders at Washington Elementary School welcomed two special guests and visited the Johnson County courthouse to learn about government.

The first guest, Kansas Court of Appeals Judge David Bruns, tackled explaining the Constitution to the young learners. In the most basic of terms, the historic document is a set of rules established by this nation's first leaders in 1787. Bruns told students that George Washington and the first Congress were among those who wrote the Constitution.

Using props of a miniature Constitution, flag, tricorn hat, and judge's robe and gavel, Bruns brought the complex topic down to the level of his young audience.

"We try to put the ideas and concepts behind the Constitution in language and examples a first-grader could conceptualize," teacher Gillian Doll said. "They have a hard time with some of the language, but that is a great time for learning new vocabulary and finding language they are familiar with."

Placing a tricorn hat upon a student's head or allowing another student to tap his official courtroom gavel on a table were two ways the judge brought social studies to life for students.

"Having a guest speaker gives students the opportunity to interact with adults whom they normally do not get the chance to meet," teacher Rebecca Frecks said. "It also allows for learning opportunities that may not have occurred with the teacher talking about the topic.

"Oftentimes with guest speakers the teachers learn a lot, too!"

All four first-grade teachers are working to bring more guest speakers into the classroom this year.

"Our students don't always have opportunities to build background information on different topics," Doll said. "These guest speakers allow our students to experience their learning first hand. It's also important for children to see these community roles in a positive, educational setting."

Judge Bruns, a police officer and a doctor will be the first three guest speakers for this semester.

"We hope to bring in several people with different careers for a career day," Frecks said. She and her colleagues are learning about Skype so that it could potentially be used to bring more visitors to their students.

"Our students really benefit from guest speakers," Doll said. "If anyone has an awesome career they would like to share we would love to have them!"

Judge David Bruns Kansas Court of Appeals Judge David Bruns talked with Washington Elementary first-graders about the U.S. Constitution and about how rules keep people safe.
students holding flags Students held or wore props representing the Constitution (flag and miniature document), George Washington and Congress (hats), and judges (gown and gavel).
boy with gavel One boy was chosen to represent judicial process during the judge’s presentation. The role was complete with the judge’s actual robe and gavel.
girl holds gavel

Four student volunteers received miniature gavels as a reminder of Judge Bruns’ visit to their classroom ahead of Constitution Day, Sept. 17.

Photos by Marlene Colgan
police officer and motorcycle

Leawood Police Officer Lee Graves visited Washington Elementary first-graders and showed his police motorcycle to them. He spoke about his job of helping people. Graves also explained to students that they should only call 9-1-1 in a true emergency.

Submitted photo