In the new Civic Engagement class, Dickinson High School seniors learn that government is more than politics.
Jeremy Wanner teaches the class as an alternative to American Government. He said the students still learn the required curriculum, but the class provides a community element.
"We just started looking into the idea that a lot of kids, when they think of government, they just think politics, but there’s so many more fields out there than just politics," Wanner said. "We’re looking to expose kids to more career fields. We do those kind of things in our CTE departments … but how can we get it into our general education."
Wanner took students to several city and county government buildings to learn about various careers in government, including the fire department, police department, forest service, sheriff's office, national guard, parks department and the game and fish department.
Student Ethan Haynes, who hopes to teach history or study law, said his favorite visit was to the police department.
"I’ve always just loved legal proceedings in general. Growing up, I watched cop shows with my mom," Haynes said, "so being in an actual police station talking to detectives, canine units, SWAT leaders, it really got me into what I was watching on TV."
The class gives students the opportunity to see places in the community they'd never been to or, in some cases, knew existed.
"Even just places that are in town, having to drive to them, I think, has been interesting," Wanner said. "They’re starting to see what other entities are out there and what people do and what it takes to run a community."
Getting more information about what it takes to run a city or county has given senior Jersey Theurer an understanding and respect for government workers.
"The people who plow the streets, they talked about how people get really mad when their street isn't plowed, but they have different places they have to go before they’re going to plow your street," Theurer said. "Calling doesn’t help because everyone wants to be first. Everyone’s calling to get their street plowed."
She said the jobs are more expansive than she had previously thought.
"They all have been so interesting because they all have different aspects to it than I thought of. When I thought of Game and Fish, all I ever thought of was a game warden," Theurer said. "I (didn’t) think of people who go and catch fish and try to populate the lakes and make sure they’re not overpopulated or underpopulated."
Wanner said the best thing about the class is that it exposes students to jobs that they may not have known about in their chosen career field.
"Everyone thinks I want to be (a) nurse or doctor, and they don’t understand that there’s a lot of people (who) don’t work at hospitals. There’s so many career fields they can go into with that," he said.
Prior to each visit, students write three questions about the place they are going in their experience journal. When they return, students reflect on their visit in the same journal.
The ideas that drive the class are at the core of the academy program that the high school is beginning to implement.