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Up and comers learn about Kootenay Boundary governance

Students visited the Trail office during Local Government Awareness Week
Grade 4 and 5 students from Christina Lake Elementary School visited the regional district office in Trail as part of Local Government Awareness Week. Photo: Submitted

The Regional District of Kootenay Boundary (RDKB) had the pleasure of hosting Grade 4 and 5 students from Christina Lake Elementary School as part of Local Government Awareness Week, which ran May 12 to May 18.

Students, under the guidance of their teacher Ryan MacGregor, spent the day at the RDKB headquarters in Trail, immersing themselves in the workings of local government and engaging in a range of educational activities.

The day kicked off with an interactive exercise where students elected their own “chair” and “vice chair,” giving them a taste of democratic processes.

“I was glad I was chosen to be the vice chair,” said nine-year old Greyson, enthusiastically describing her brief stint in leadership. “When the chair went to the bathroom, I got to fill in.”

Kenzee, 10, enjoyed the process as well, noting, “I enjoyed the silent vote for the chair and vice chair. It was fun to listen to their arguments and see who was chosen as a result.”

One of the highlights of the visit was meeting Ireland, RDKB’s Justice Facility Support Dog. Ireland plays a crucial role in providing comfort and support to those in need.

“I never knew Ireland, the dog, had to do all that stuff like go out and comfort people and calm them down,” said Lilah, one of the students.

Students also heard from various regional managers, including Fire Chief Dan Derby, as they gave presentations on key matters such as water conservation, outdoor recreation, victim services, emergency management, fire protection, and waste management.

Bentley, 11, found these presentations particularly enlightening, saying, “We’ve been learning about government and the RDKB in class so it’s been cool hearing from all the people who we’ve been learning about.”

A practical session on waste separation followed, teaching the students the importance of proper waste management.

The day culminated in a mock board meeting where students debated and voted on “practice” resolutions.

They successfully passed a resolution to consider building a community garden in Christina Lake and also voted in favour of exploring the feasibility of constructing an ice rink in Christina Lake.

“This is how things work at the RDKB table but remember it’s only a practice — don’t go home and tell your parents that an ice skating rink will be coming to Christina Lake without them having a say!” reminded director Grace McGregor, Area C-Christina Lake, with a smile.

Anitra Winje, RDKB’s corporate officer, officiated the event.

“It was great to share our passion for local government and the students were absolutely brilliant and so smart,” Winje said. “The newly “elected” chair and vice chair were grateful to be mentored by Chair Linda Worley and the enthusiasm and interest of the whole group was evident throughout the day,” she added.

“They had a firm grasp on all the concepts we talked about, and engaged in some fantastic discussions and lively debates.”

Teacher Ryan MacGregor emphasized the significance of such educational experiences, stating, “The purpose of education is to generate democratic citizens, people who can participate effectively in a democratic society.”

The point of government is to enact, to the best of their ability, what is going to make for a better future, MacGregor said.

“If we don’t have people that are participating in that effectively with the knowledge and understanding of how important it is, we end up in rough shape.

“Having children understand government and constructive discourse and then being able to see it in action is what will lead us forward. The fact of the matter is that people will protect what they understand, they understand what they know and they will only know if they are taught.”

Director McGregor said she was thoroughly impressed by the students’ engagement and preparedness.

“Ryan prepared his students very well,” she said. “We are completely impressed by their knowledge and interest in local government and would be happy to host more schools to build and spread that further amongst our youth. It was a lot of fun too.”

Linda Worley, Chair of the RDKB Board, echoed McGregor’s sentiments, encouraging other schools to reach out to the RDKB to learn about local government.

“This is an event we would love to host every year. These kids are our future.”

Local Government Awareness Week aims to build awareness of the roles and services of local governments.

The RDKB, serving over 33,000 residents with 73 different services, encourages civic engagement and community involvement.