Cantrell's Corner: A Presidential Experience

By Hannah Cantrell on March 06, 2014 from Cantrell’s Corner via Connect-Bridgeport.com

Last Friday, I found myself with a V.I.P Pass to meet 43 of the former presidents of the United States. Well, they were Johnson Elementary School third grade students playing the presidents. Johnson Elementary School held its annual Presidential Program where the students prepare their research to help them embody their chosen president.
 
As I walked through the Hall of Presidents, I was taken back to a time when I walked down these same halls of the “West Wing” portraying a first lady. It was at this moment I realized what an impact this particular program had on me and considering this is the 19th year Johnson has done this presentation, the impact it continues to make. 
 
Johnson’s Presidential Program is an extensive and in-depth learning opportunity for the children. Mrs. Jeannie Zickafoose explained to me that this particular unit is called a “cross curricular” lesson because of how many outlets the children are able to use to explore not only the presidents but it also helps them gain an appreciation for the flag, the military,  the three branches of government, and what patriotism truly means.  They use history, art, reading and other subjects to help them prepare for their moment as Mr. and Mrs. President.
 
Even with all the snow days they have had that interrupted this lesson, Mrs. Gina Cann, said that they never planned to cancel this event.
 
“We were going to find a way to do this because the kids would have been so disappointed had we canceled," she said.
 
She continued to tell me about how they do this every year because some of the kids develop connections with the presidents - like those who were orphans or who had dreams outside of politics. From my observations, kids take with them an abundance of information.
 
After all the kids had been announced and taken their final lap around the Hall, emcee for the morning, Michelle Duez, excused them all away to the “West Wing” for official white house business. After the parade of presidents had ended, a press conference was held.  Parents were invited to walk from class to class to ask each student questions about their president.
 
I took advantage of this opportunity and made a beeline for President Woodrow Wilson and First Lady Edith Wilson, who was portrayed by David Nyugen and my niece, Olivia Hall.  I asked the Wilsons what they believed was the most important achievement during their time as president.
 
Mrs. Wilson replied, “He let women vote, was the most educated president, made the thing where kids can’t work anymore, and is on the $100,000 bill!”
 
My second interview was the nation’s founding father, George Washington, portrayed by Ethan Neel, who said that the coolest thing he did was fight in the Revolutionary War.
 
This presentation made an impact on me when I was young and now coming back to watch my niece and other kids participate in the Presidential Program it made an impact on me again. The third grade teachers at Johnson Elementary School are doing something great with this event and today, I saw the knowledge swirling in the eyes of their students. The one thing that is undisputable is that these kids will carry this unit with them long after they’ve become presidents and first ladies of their own houses.
 
See more photos from the event HERE


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