BLUE EARTH - Blue Earth Area sixth-graders spent part of Tuesday morning in the Faribault County Jail, then toured the courthouse and ate lunch at the fairgrounds.
It was a real-world lesson on government and a prelude to their trip to St. Paul next week.
"I hope they get a sense of how things are done at the local level, how money flows, roads, bridges and law enforcement," said Al Cue, assistant principal of K-8.
Judge Douglas Richards, left, asks “attorneys” what they would like to know from a “witness” to help them decide a vehicle accident case as Blue Earth Area sixth-graders tour the Faribault County Courthouse on Tuesday.
Orv Terhark, court reporter, types up the names of sixth-graders as he would type them on his steno machine during a trial. The students were touring the Faribault County Courthouse on Tuesday as part of a social studies class.
"It was a really good experience to see what all the people do at the courthouse and police station," said Izzy Barnett.
"I thought it was really fun and made me enjoy history class and I'll listen more," said Maddy Glanzman. "It was a good experience and it made me want to be a lawyer when I grow up."
"It was fun," said Luke Carr. "It was entertaining and it was informative."
Students made the rounds of the courthouse in four groups, hearing from Auditor John Thompson, Deputy County Assessor Steve Robbins and the Faribault County commissioners, among others.
County Recorder Sherry Asmus not only explained how her office keeps records, but told students about the features of the courthouse, which is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Orv Terhark, court reporter, showed students how his steno machine works. He asked for the kids' names and gave them a slip of paper with the names typed out, but not in English. Judge Douglas Richards showed how the computer transcribes the abbreviations into readable text in seconds.
Richards directed the students to take seats as jury, attorneys and witnesses to illustrate how a case is built. He asked the "attorneys" what they would want to know from the drivers of two vehicles that collided to help figure out who was most at fault. The "witnesses" were questioned by the "attorneys" as to whether they were texting, drinking or signally properly while driving. Richards asked three groups how they would rule and got three different answers.
"I loved the experience where we got to be the witnesses," Barnett said.
She also was impressed by the lunch provided by the commissioners, and everybody who pitched in to help.
"It was so sweet," Barnett said.
"The dungeon was really cool," Glanzman said of the lower level of the courthouse.
"I liked getting to walk through the jail and the dungeon in the courthouse," Carr agreed. "[The jail was a] nice place to have a tour, but not to stay."
This was the first time sixth-graders have been offered these tours.
"We hope to get USC and Maple River to participate in future years," said Dawn Fellows, director of Central Services for the county and a member of the school board.
She found resource material on county government by the Association of Minnesota Cities and presented it to the school board and commissioners.
"Commissioner (Tom) Warmka suggested we do a civics day in conjunction with the study," Fellows said.
"I've wanted to do this for 14 years, but she's the one who got it done," Warmka said of Fellows.
"I think the kids got a lot out of it," Warmka noted. "When I was in the eighth grade, I went to the state Capitol and I'll never forget it."