Living in the backyard of the nation’s capital, Howard County high school students received a first-hand look at what happens on Capitol Hill and in the White House, all without leaving their school parking lots.

Parked outside River Hill and Long Reach high schools Tuesday, a blue bus with C-SPAN in big, white letters waited for students to come aboard to tour all that it has to offer and learn about United States government.


At River Hill, some American government students got a chance to go on the bus.

River Hill sophomore Ian Parker said, “It’s interesting learning about how government works and seeing the behind-the-scenes of it all.”

So far this year, Ian, 15, said he has learned about gerrymandering, a process he said is a “broken system.”

Traveling cross-country for 26 years, the C-SPAN bus has stopped at schools and community events to teach about the television network’s educational and digital media resources. The bus recently wrapped up a 14-month trip, visiting all 50 United States capitals, including Honolulu, Hawaii, and Juneau, Alaska; the bus traveled by boat for those two trips.

The bus features a smart TV, classroom space, a high-definition TV production studio for live and taped programming, a miniature control room, a 360-degree video station and 11 touch-screen tablets.

After a short presentation, students walked around the bus, many answering quizzes on the tablets, including Ziad Almekkawi, a junior at River Hill.

Ziad, 16, said the bus is very educational in providing an “experience to see how Congress works and how it is documented.”

Howard County elected officials were invited to go on the bus as well as students, and Council Chairwoman Deb Jung also visited at River Hill.

“It’s critical young people get involved and understand the importance of their voice being heard and where it can be the most effective,” Jung said.

Schools were selected based on if teachers are members of C-SPAN Classroom, a free video membership service for social studies teachers to use as part of their curriculum.

Leslie Topus, an American government teacher at River Hill and a member of C-SPAN Classroom, is currently teaching her students about Maryland state and local politics, primarily focusing on the legislative branch.

Using the C-SPAN curriculum “brings it to life,” Topus said.

The bus also traveled to schools where students have participated in the yearly C-SPAN documentary competition, StudentCam. Last spring, three Long Reach High students received an honorable mention for their 2019 submission, creating a video that addressed the theme of “What does it mean to be American?”

Created in 1979 as a nonprofit public service, C-SPAN is a public affairs network that provides coverage of congressional proceedings and other governmental forums concerning public policy, according to its website.