A Capital Idea
We wanted the children when they came here to have an educational experience—and the place that we knew we could get the best information was through KET.
Jane Beshear – Kentucky first lady
Capitol Education Center
When you live in the Governor’s Mansion, all of Kentucky is literally at your front door—in the form of thousands of visitors to the state capital each year.
But sometimes, said Kentucky’s first lady, Jane Beshear, those tourists—many of them students on a school field trip—were stranded outside in all weathers while eating their lunch or waiting for a tour to begin.
But now that’s changed, thanks to the new Capitol Education Center, which gives visitors not only a place to gather, but also, with KET’s help, educational materials to enhance their visit.
“Daily we’d see students during the school year who had come for tours, and I saw so many times children having their lunch, or waiting for their turn out on Capitol Avenue with no place to gather,” said Beshear from the newly opened center, a thoroughly renovated former heating and cooling building sitting between the mansion and the Capitol.
“Our concern was that these children get the most out of their field trips, since there are so few of them in this day and time.”
So Beshear, a former teacher, combined her concern for Frankfort’s visitors with Gov. Steve Beshear’s “Green Team” environmental initiative, and marshaled the forces of several private partners and state agencies, including the Kentucky Environmental Education Council and KET, to renovate the building and fill it with examples of green technology and educational materials.
“We wanted the children when they came here to have an educational experience—and the place that we knew we could get the best information was through KET,” she said.
The resources provided by KET offer an interactive tour of the Capitol campus, a civics lesson on how a bill becomes a law, outlines of the three branches of government, and geographical and tourist-oriented videos of the various regions of Kentucky.
Many materials were created by KET especially for the center. Other resources have been adapted from KET’s archives. The subject matter is rotated depending on the time of year; during the school year, it’s aimed at students, while during the summer months, Kentucky’s rich tourist offerings are featured.
“We want to keep the information here new and up to date,” said Beshear. “So KET’s ability to share so much that they have produced over the years will allow us to continually update the information we have here.”
In addition to the KET videos, the building itself provides an educational experience as a demonstration of green technology. Kids peek inside the walls at the recycled denim that makes up the insulation, and when they make a pit-stop, they learn that the water in the toilets comes from rainwater collected on the building’s roof. Overhead there’s also a wind turbine (which puts electricity directly into the capitol’s power grid), solar panels, and a roof garden, which helps keep the building cool.
Other displays inside the building utilize resources from the University of Louisville, Duke Energy Foundation, Kentucky Utilities, General Electric, and other partners.
“This is a perfect example of public-private partnerships, ‘public’ being KET and the state,” the first lady declared.
“This building is a lesson; this building is a teaching facility. The things that the children love the most when they come here are the interactive kiosks, where they learn about tourism, history, and the Capitol campus—all through the information from KET.”