When many Edmontonians think about city hall, they envision shelling out for property taxes or parking tickets. 

But many students in the city are learning there's much more going on at the pointy glass building in the heart of downtown.

Over the last 11 years, an estimated 5,000 students have been through something called City Hall School offered as part of the Edmonton Inquiring Minds site-based school programs.

Linda Hut

For the last seven years City Hall School teacher Linda Hut has been in charge of the program. (John Robertson/CBC)

It provides a week-long, hands-on learning experience about municipal government for students from Grade 1 to Grade 12. 

The kids do more than just visit council chambers and conduct mock debates.

"We go to the Mustard Seed to make sandwiches for their community, we go to the law courts, we ride the LRT so students have a chance to see what their downtown is all about," said city hall teacher Linda Hut. "The city Is our classroom." 

Each year 25 classes are selected to participate. They pay about $800 to cover staffing and transportation costs. 

Edmonton kids quiz the mayor1:44

Mayor Don Iveson said the students who get to take part are lucky because when he was a young student, little attention was paid to municipal affairs.

"We didn't talk about local government when I was your age," Iveson explained when meeting a group of students from Waverley School.


City Hall School

Hundreds of schools have had students attend the City Hall School program since it launched 11 years ago, taking photos and keeping journals along the way. (Adrienne Lamb/CBC)

"We talked about the province and the federal government but we never talked about cities," Iveson said. "This is one of the best programs we run at city hall." 

Iveson said he enjoys seeing students "who are not the least bit cynical yet and are purely curious about what's going on in their city" visit city hall, learn about what goes on there and provide feedback. 

Eleven-year-old Harley Dawson said he enjoyed learning about how city government works and thinks the experience will make the students feel more a part of the community.

Harley Dawson

Grade 6 Waverley School student Harley Dawson inside the classroom at City Hall School. (John Robertson/CBC)

"What they get is a feeling that they belong in the city, that they have a voice in the city, they have a role as a citizen and they get a sense of connectedness," he said.

You can see more from Edmonton City Hall on Saturday at 10 a.m. and Sunday and Monday at 11 a.m. on Our Edmonton on CBC TV.