Even though they were given more schoolwork Wednesday, the third-graders at Collins Lane Elementary didn’t seem to mind.
The illustrator of their new workbook was handing out free drawings, plus three former sheriffs were on hand to encourage their learning.
“There are three former sheriffs in this room right now,” Judge-Executive Ted Collins told the third-graders at Wednesday’s assembly. “I’m one of them,” he said, as the kids “oohed” and “aahed.”
Collins, along with several other county officials, and representatives from the Kentucky Association of Counties (including former sheriffs Denny Nunnelley and Brian Roy) were there to launch the “KACo County Government Booklet.”
The booklet, designed by KACo staff and a few Collins Lane Elementary teachers, is geared toward helping third- and fourth-graders understand the function of county government and its elected officials.
It includes lessons on identifying elected county officials and their duties, word scrambles, crossword puzzles and a mock election activity.
At the assembly, KACo Executive Director Nunnelley said providing education to Kentucky’s students on county government has been something he’s wanted since he first became executive director a few years ago.
He said the county has passed out puzzles and coloring books to kids in the past, but this year, they stepped it up a notch.
“We wanted the books to be relevant and useful in schools and not just a coloring book that you could use and then toss away,” he said.
“That’s why we enlisted the help of three wonderful educators.”
After Nunnelley decided last winter to make the booklet, KACo Assistant Director J.C. Young reached out to his wife, Kimberly, a third-grade language arts teacher at Collins Lane, to help devise a curriculum.
KACo staff members provided the material, while Young, third-grade teacher Julie Moudy, and special education teacher April Johnson made lesson plans to go along with the Department of Education’s Core Content for Social Studies Standards.
Students learn about state government in fourth grade and federal government in fifth, but there have never been resources to teach kids about county government, Young said.
She says that lack of knowledge and available resources are the biggest reasons she got involved.
“Living in Kentucky, county government is part of everyday life, yet (the students) don’t know what a county government is, who’s their county government and what they do for them,” Young told The State Journal.
“Especially in the commonwealth, we have so many counties and it’s such a big deal. There are so many things people need to understand.”
Nunnelley and Young said they hope the lessons provide opportunities for teachers to bring local county officials to the classroom.
By introducing officials, Nunnelley hopes kids understand government officials are there to help, not punish.
“I’m a former sheriff (from Woodford County), and I don’t want the kids to be afraid of a hat and a uniform and a gun,” Nunnelley said. “I want them to think of them as their protector.”
Collins Lane students were the first to receive the booklets, but Nunnelley hopes third-graders in all 120 Kentucky counties get them soon.
Next week, KACo representatives will travel to Lewis and Garrard counties to distribute the rest.
KACo is funding the project at an estimated cost of $20,000-25,000, Nunnelley said. Currently, it’s just a pilot program, but Nunnelley said he hopes teachers will find the booklets useful and integrate it into their curriculum.
If successful, more booklets could be printed next year.
“I think this will really help the teachers, and maybe help the parents,” Young said. “But (helping) the students especially, that’s our main goal.”