U.S. Government Students Visit Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate



Seven U.S. Government students attended the field trip.

Lauren Celardo, Staff Writer

On Jan. 14, WHS students in the U.S. Government class visited the Edward M. Kennedy Institute on a field trip, where they explored the “Seat at the Table” exhibit and participated in an impeachment discussion as “Senators in Training.” Since opening in 2015, the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate welcomes students and visitors of all ages into its interactive and educational tours and exhibits. The institute showcases a unique and full scale replica of the Senate Chamber and uses this as a platform to incite conversation about issues in American politics, as well as educate students on the inner workings of politics. 

The [Kennedy Institute] is dedicated to educating the public about the important role of the Senate in our government, encouraging participatory democracy, invigorating civil discourse and inspiring the next generation of citizens and leaders to engage in the civic life of their communities,” the institute website states. 

Edward M. Kennedy, the institute’s namesake, served as a Massachusetts senator for nine consecutive terms from 1962 to 2009. Kennedy fought for civil rights, education and health care benefits during his time as a senator. Students who visit can experience working in a real Senate building and learn more about national politics and its implications. 

The “Seat at the Table” exhibit is inspired by late Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm, the first African American woman elected to Congress in 1968. She acted as an advocate for female representation and racial diversity in government. WHS students had the opportunity to see handmade chairs that represent significant figures to explore the relationship between personal identity, cultural values and politics. 

During the trip, the students were able to see the exhibit, discuss the current impeachment and act out congressional situations. Receiving points for voting in accordance with what their state supported, students discovered that even a simple decision like a national ice cream sundae can take negotiations, compromise and multiple tries to pass a law despite complications such as presidential veto.

“We as senators voted on toppings such as peanut butter cups and gummy bears. In the simulation, the House voted on raisins and orange slices. The compromise ended up being peanut butter cups and orange slices, which the President vetoed, probably because that would be disgusting. We then repeated the simulation in order to try to pass the law,” senior Lindsay Navick said. “Overall the simulation showed how laws were made, but also how you can’t always get exactly what you want, but can come to a compromise.”

This field trip built upon the curriculum the students are learning in class with teacher Samantha Rafferty. Students used this opportunity to further their awareness about politics in the country, so they can understand the issues and vote when they turn 18 for their own representatives. They looked into what the Constitution says on impeachment, the process that must happen and the reasoning for it. Then, they voted on impeachment themselves. Their recreation of Congress gave insight to how laws get passed in real life. 

“The biggest takeaway from the trip was how complex lawmaking was. I am still not a fan of the partisan way politics are performed today. However, I did gain a greater understanding for the way politics are intended to be run. It is important that we pay attention to what is going on around us so that we are able to prevent issues from arising or stop them from continuing sooner rather than later,” Navick said.