Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A Visit to the Massachusetts Ministry of Magic

Or, as we like to call it, the State House:

Our state homeschooling organization, Advocates for Home Education in Massachusetts, planned a day for homeschoolers to visit the State House. The visit included a well-set-up scavenger hunt which took us all over the building, a State House tour, and the chance to meet with our State Representative.
Here are some pictures:

Up there, that's the statue of General Hooker. One of the many well-dressed workers at the State House took time out of his busy day to tell us all about Gen. Hooker, a Civil war hero. He also discussed how, in a sculpture of a person on a horse, you can tell if the subject is alive or dead by the number of hooves on the ground or in the air. Gen. Hooker, it turns out,lived through the Civil War; had he died the horse would be rearing with both front legs off the ground.

These next two pictures are of the Great Hall of Flags, which houses each Massachusetts town's official flag.

For much of our visit, the Great Hall of Flags was full of people and TV cameras and officials all gathered to discuss autism. It wasn't the only area of the state house bustling with senators, representatives, aides, journalists, photographers, and visitors. In most hallways and gathering spaces, people were everywhere! Another beautiful gallery, the Hall of Nurses, hosted a meeting the morning we were there attended by police officers from across the state. Just add in the flying paper airplanes that count as interoffice mail in the Ministry of Magic, and we could've been in the wizarding world.

It seemed like everywhere we went, there was somebody to help us. On our scavenger hunt, we needed to get into a large reception hall to find a painting of Horace Mann. A guard informed us that there was a meeting going on, we wouldn't be able to get into the reception room; as he was finishing his sentence, a senator rushed up, overruled the guard, and took us in to the room by a door further down the hallway, telling us many facts about the hall and the building as we went. When he opened the door to show us the picture, we saw officials, journalists, and photographers way over on the other side of reception hall – and the picture we were seeking was just above our heads.

Here is a lovely window that I enjoyed as we walked through the State House.

We were lucky enough to meet with the representative from our area, at a moment when he had the time to give us a tour of the House Debating Chamber. This picture hangs in the chamber:

Also, our representative told us about the Sacred Cod, which you can see in the gallery below. The cod's head points toward the side of the party in power; here in Massachusetts, the cod has pointed toward the Democrat's side since 1948 – a fact which our Republican representative told us with no irony or bitterness whatsoever; I liked him for that. When you are attempting to rear children with respect for their civil government, it's nice to have your elected representatives treat the other side with civility.

And, here is our group posing for a picture with the representative in the debating chamber. We are standing where the Speaker of the House stands; it was quite a feeling!

One of the most memorable parts of the day for me will always be when our representative was showing Luke, Owen, and I some of the quieter chambers off to the side of the big chamber. Luke asked a really interesting question: "Representative, why is everything oval-shaped in here? I mean, the curtains, the tables, the plaster above the lights…"
A conversation ensued about how the architecture in this building reflects the builders' belief in equality for everyone. Our representative told us further that the chairs in the Senate Chamber are carefully set so that everyone's head is at the same height while they debate. He then asked if the boys knew about the legend of King Arthur; when they responded enthusiastically, the three of them shared in a conversation about why the Round Table was round.
And then:
Owen: "Representative, our mom lets us watch clips of a movie about King Arthur on YouTube. Have you ever heard of Monty Python?"
Representative: (smiling)"Yes, I have."
Owen:"Oh, that is one of our favorite movies to watch clips from! Have you ever seen the part with the Killer Rabbit?"
Representative:(smiling even wider)"Sure, I remember him!"
Owen:"Do you remember this part? What's he gonna do, nibble my bum?" Seriously, my six-year-old said that to our State Representative. I was a bit embarrassed, but I have to admit I also thought it was very cute – and, I think the Representative will remember our meeting with fondness. He laughed heartily at Owen's imitation.

As for us, we remember this visit with fondness too. Really, all that were missing were the flying interoffice memos; the State House is quite a magical place.


Luisa said...

Oh that sounds so awesome. I'm so bummed I missed it. What a great together.

jugglingpaynes said...

Your kids would so get along with my kids. I finally let them watch The Holy Grail since they had seen most of it through clips. Here we have random quotes of Monty Python. :o)

Peace and Laughter!

Rana said...

What an exciting trip. That was a lot to see and learn about. That's hilarious they quote Holy Grail. I love the catapult scene and oh so many others. That movie is a classic.

Melissa R said...

Pooh! I wish I had known, we surely would have gone. Ian and I have a "thing" we do... we visit the state house in each state we go to. We have a LOVELY book, by Susan Thrane, that we note our visit in.

We have not been to MA yet but it's on our short to do list. Do you have the info on who I would need to contact in order to set up a visit for my homeschool group?

Oh, and my husband and I went to see Spamalot this month. It was fun!

Melissa R said...

BTW... how could I have found out about this field trip? Where was it listed that I could have found it?


Karen said...

Luisa and Melissa - it was fun, and it was planned by the Advocates for Home Education in Massachusetts, ahemdotinfo; you can sign up to get their notifications of upcoming stuff, plus the whole site is a great resource for homeschooling. Maybe we'll see you at the State House next year!

Cristina and Rana - I'm always glad to hear of other people who love, and randomly quote, Python, they are so funny! I don't know if you have seen the Lego version of the Camelot song on youTube, but if not, you should go see it now :-)

Thanks for reading!

Firefly Mom said...

How wonderful that everyone was so helpful and willing to share stories with the kids! The bit about the horse and rider statues was knew to me. Learn something new every day. :) And I loved the story about Monty Python! Cody did a backyard production of it last summer. They didn't have killer bunnies, though. :D