Nearly 40 Southeast Junior High students visited the Kansas State Capitol in Topeka on Wednesday. A 15 year restoration is complete at the Capitol and the seventh grade students took the Dome Tour, visited the House of Representatives Gallery, Senate Gallery, the old state Supreme Court, and got to see firsthand the numerous murals and statues throughout the building.
“Taking students to the capitol is important to me because while it is an educational field trip, it is engaging, and inspiring,” said Mary Colvin, a 7th grade History teacher at SJHS. “It is an experience that most students have never had, and would never have if they didn’t go with a school group.”
“The student’s favorite part is the dome tour,” said Donna Renn, who teaches both 7th grade History and Art at the school. “Even the students who did not climb all the way to the top were still impressed. It is almost 300 steps to get to the dome and we had students who wanted to climb it again.”
Most of the students climbed the 296 steps to the top of the cupola and went outside to see the 22 foot tall Ad Astra warrior, which faces the North Star but was blowing in the wind.
“The dome tour is always amazing,” said Mrs. Renn. “Even though we look at pictures for a preview, there’s nothing like seeing it on a tour.”
“They talked about the climb, the stairs, walking outside, seeing Ad Astra up close, the graffiti, and so much more,” said Mrs. Colvin.
“After the students went up to the top of the capitol, they kept asking throughout the day if they could go back up the stairs to the top again before we had to leave,” said Ryan Hizey, a teacher at the school. “They also really enjoyed getting to sit in the seven chairs in one of the meeting rooms for pictures.”
Students learned that while the federal Supreme Court has nine judges, the state Supreme Court only has seven, and seven at a time the students got to sit at the head of the old judges chamber.
“Earlier this semester we discussed the painting ‘Tragic Prelude’ painted by John Steuart Curry – we saw several of his murals painted on the walls in the Capitol,” said Mrs. Renn. “The students were impressed with the size and clarity of the murals. The students pointed out details to each other.”
“There was a lot of detail and history put into the design of the capitol and this was very fascinating to me,” said Mr. Hizey. “I love hearing about the history of old buildings like the capitol and finding out about the architecture of them.”
“I see new details in the design and architecture every time we visit the Capitol,” said Mrs. Renn.
“To me the best part of the trip to the capitol is seeing something that our state has invested so heavily in,” said Mrs. Colvin. “To me it is a piece of showmanship that is beautiful and shows how much pride Kansans have in our state. Everyone should visit our state capitol at least once to see where our state government operates and all of the history within the capitol walls. Now tour wise, the glass floor in the library is always my favorite. I am a huge book lover, which gives meaning to the library, and where else do you get to walk on a glass floor?”
The tour guides explained to the students that the glass floor was originally installed as a way to disperse light throughout the library.
Both the tour guides and the Southeast teachers were delighted to see that the students not only remembered some of the Kansas history discussed in class, but also made connections with the building and many of the exhibits on display.
“The students really knew some of their Kansas history when going through the parts of the capitol,” said Mr. Hizey. “They were able to answer questions and even tell about some of the parts of the capitol before the guide talked about them. This was great to me.”
“I was impressed with some of the student comments based on information they had learned in class, and then were seeing first hand and putting those connections together as we toured and talked throughout the capitol,” said Mrs. Colvin. “On the way home the group that rode with me was full of questions wanting ‘the rest of the story’ about things they had seen.”