Earlier this month, second graders from Johnston Elementary School took a field trip to Irving’s City Hall, where they learned all about how the city functions and had the opportunity to meet the mayor.

It all came about after their teacher, Haley Clanton, aspired to make meaningful, real-world connections with her students during their social studies unit. As students learned about the levels of government and its respective leaders, such as United States President Joe Biden, Texas Governor Greg Abbott and Irving Mayor Rick Stopfer, students expressed interest in meeting them.

“We started talking about the level of importance of each leader and the likelihood of meeting them,” says Clanton, second-grade teacher at Johnston Elementary. “I told them that they’re likely not going to meet the president, and even though the governor is only over Texas, he’s still pretty up there. But the mayor lives here in Irving, is in the parade and is important to our community.”

Clanton reached out to the City of Irving and inquired about the possibility of having Mayor Stopfer speak to the class via a Zoom meeting or maybe even a field trip.

“Even if we just drove by and he waved out of his window, [the students] would have been happy,” says Clanton. “[City officials] did not have to do anything extra, but they truly went above and beyond!”

As part of the field trip, students had a chance to fully immerse themselves in the City Hall experience. As soon as they entered the building, Mayor Stopfer was there to greet each student. Both he and City Manager Chris Hillman spoke to the students in the Council Chambers and guided them through what their duties entailed.

“I liked meeting the mayor,” says Sadie Mercado, second grader at Johnston Elementary. “Also, we got to sit in the chairs where they do the meetings.”

After that, the scavenger hunt was on! Students went around the building identifying stops along the way and speaking with employees from different departments to learn more about what they do for a living.

The fun and engagement did not stop there. Upon exiting the building, students had the opportunity to see and get on and into various city vehicles including a garbage truck, dump truck, fire truck, police motorcycle and SWAT vehicle.

“We got to pretend to drive the police car and the police motorcycle,” says Jacob Herring, second grader at Johnston Elementary. “I turned it on and went vroom vroom!”

To conclude the field trip, students visited the Irving Archives and Museum, where they learned even more about Irving’s history.

“It got them excited – whether it’s learning more about local government or seeing the different jobs that help the city run. Planting those seeds right now will help give them an idea of just how big the world is,” says Clanton.