4-H KYG in The Olympian

River Ridge student Alex Nesbitt, 17, (left) and Spencer Nelson, 16, who is homeschooled, take part in a scavenger hunt on Capitol Campus last week. The students were part of a group of 4-H students from throughout the state that were in town for the Washington State Extension, “Know Your Government” conference. (Steven M. Herppich/The Olympian)

Learning hands-on at Capitol

Venice Buhain
The Olympian

OLYMPIA — Brittany Roberson, 16, and Victoria Wilson, 18, both of Lacey, raced around Capitol Campus, peppering staff members, lobbyists and anyone else with a suit with questions.
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"Can we get a copy of all the current bills?" Roberson, a River Ridge High School student, asked the staff members at the Legislative Information Center.

Before they could answer, Wilson, a Timberline High School student, asked, "Do you know the youngest representative? What about the oldest?"

The two were part of the annual Washington State University Extension 4-H "Know Your Government" conference last week. About 300 attendees from 4-H clubs across the state came to the Red Lion Hotel Olympia and practiced parliamentary procedure, met their hometown legislators at the Capitol and voted on planks of a platform.

"It gives them a good sense of what goes on in our government — how decisions get made," said Sarah Wilson, Victoria Wilson's mother and one of the parent volunteers at the conference.

Official tours

The conference attendees from out of town opted for the official tours of the Capitol, but the eight Thurston County students decided to design a scavenger hunt, requiring collection of signatures and information from the staff members and departments they learned about during the weekend.

"If you live here, you go on the Capitol tour all the time," said Spencer Nelson, 16, who is home-schooled. "It's always better to do something than to just go on another tour."

"Part of it is they get the opportunity to talk to people, to get to know the offices and what they do there," Sarah Wilson said.

This year's Know Your Government topic was about elections, and the students also listened to speakers from the Secretary of State's Office and elected their own annual governor, Caleb Klein of Lincoln County's 4-H.

"These kids are on fire; they can't wait to vote," said 4-H spokeswoman Betsy Fradd. "A lot of our youth are already involved in leadership in their home counties and throughout the state."

Washington State 4-H Director Pat BoyEs complemented this year's participants as exemplary.

"The participation level and the energy level and the quality of the topics they chose for the platforms — the young people together made a very good conference," BoyEs said.

Venice Buhain covers education for The Olympian. She can be reached at 360-754-5445 or vbuhain@theolympian.com.