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Students portray government’s three branches — no, make that three carrots

Third-graders’ artworks reimagine democratic process

East Grand Rapids — Ask any Lakeside Elementary third-grader who should be the beneficiary of a certain tubular orange vegetable they don’t want at lunchtime, and they’ll point to Regan Donahue.  

“Everybody gives me their carrots,” Regan said. “I once had, like, 12 bags in my desk. I think maybe that part of it is I like the sound they make when I crunch.”

Scott Mitton’s third-graders have transformed the three branches of government into the three whatever-they-likes of government. This was the fourth year Mitton integrated an art project into the social studies unit.

In Regan’s case it was — you guessed it — the three carrots of government. 

Lining the halls outside Mitton’s classroom — as well as the two other third-grade teachers, Holland Cummisford and Michelle Kirk — were posters from his three social studies sections. They included dragons, doughnuts, skateboards and Yodas.

Peyton Gent’s three branches of dill pickles were represented thusly: the legislative dill wore a “P” necklace, the executive dill sported a mustache and the judicial dill wore glasses.

Alice Prins imagined the three animals of government: executive husky, judicial lion and legislative panther. Alice knows the panthers make the laws, “like you have to be higher than 6 feet to drive a car,” she said. And the law she would make if she were a panther: “no-kill shelters.”  

Lakeside parent and former art educator Joni Leete

Next Level Learning, Next Level Creativity

Mitton said posters this year are especially thoughtful, and he gives a substitute teacher credit. He was out for three weeks recovering from surgery, and sub Joni Leete, a Lakeside parent and former art teacher, led the project.

“I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, this is the perfect person to lead this lesson.’ The examples she did for the kids, I said, ‘I am keeping these forever because they are phenomenal.’ What she inspired in my students … she took my lesson to a whole new level.” 

Mitton said Leete sent him texts as students were creating so he could cheer them on from home. “I felt like I was right there with her.”

Regan said thinking of government in terms of carrots definitely gives him a better understanding of the way things work in Washington, DC.

“I’m a little interested in it,” he said. Government is needed, he argued, so citizens can know how they should move through their days. 

“Because like now, for school, the bus driver has to look on both sides when they get to train tracks,” he explained. “If that wasn’t a law, more people would get hurt.”

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Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema is a reporter and copy editor, covering East Grand Rapids, Forest Hills and Northview. She is a Grand Rapids native and a product of Grand Rapids Public Schools, including Brookside and West Leonard elementaries, City Middle/High School and Ottawa Hills. She found her tribe in journalism in 1997 and has never wanted to do anything but write. For 15 years she was a freelance journalist for The Grand Rapids Press, covering local schools and government, religion, business, home & garden and lifestyles. She and her husband, John, think even those without kiddos should be invested in their local schools and made to feel a part of them. Read Morgan's full bio

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