The second Let’s Read! Let’s Move! session of this summer took place at the U.S. Supreme Court on July 16. It was the first time the literacy and enrichment event was held at the historic location.
With the Capitol dome as the backdrop, students from Washington, D.C.-area schools exited their yellow school buses, squinting as they peered in awe at the massive columns of the Supreme Court. Students hailed from William Paca Elementary School, St. Philips Child Development Center, the Metropolitan Day School, the United Planning Organization, and Judith P. Hoyer Montessori School.
A young girl got into the Let’s Move! spirit, counting as she climbed the steps to the courtroom, “…35, 36, 37, 38—wow!” Extending their arms towards the ceiling to take in the size of the vast space in the Great Hall under the rotunda, children peeked into the courtroom on their way to the East conference room.
Secretary Arne Duncan, joined by Marshal of the U.S. Supreme Court Pamela Talkin, and U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Burwell, read Marshall the Courthouse Mouse: A Tail of the Supreme Court. Phrases from the book, such as “voting unani-MOUSE-ly,” generated laughs from everyone in the room.
Secretary Burwell kneeled with the children to show the illustrations in the books and to point out that each page had hidden turtles—symbols of longevity, and the slow, yet deliberate pace of justice.
During the question-and-answer session, a child asked, “Why is the courthouse so pretty?” Talkin explained, “It is made to look special so every citizen understands how important the law is, as [the law] covers everyone from children to grown-ups, protecting our rights. It is a beautiful building because it does a beautiful thing, and we have a system that works.”
Energetic shrieks could be heard as the Let’s Move! activities commenced in the courtyard with joyful children participating in Supreme Court-themed activities emphasizing teamwork.
Children participated in the Scales of Justice Bean Bag Balance, the Majority Rules and Statute Stackers Relay Race, the Bill of Rights Frenzy, and they “exercised” their rights with the YMCA’s Physically Healthy and Driven program volunteers.
When I asked some students about their favorite part of the event, many responded, “Having the book read out loud.” In the courtyard, a student shrieked, “I found the turtles!” Sure enough, under the antique lamp posts were turtle sculptures.
The summer learning continued as interns, YMCA volunteers, and ED staff entered the courtroom for a lecture about the judicial functions of the Supreme Court and the building’s history.
The next two Let’s Read! Let’s Move! events will be held on July 23 and July 30.
Viviana Altamirano is a rising junior at Middlebury College. She is an intern in the Office of Communications and Outreach at the U.S. Department of Education.