In many ways, Louden Miller is a typical 8-year-old boy. He plays with his dog, Mackey. He ignores his sister’s cat, Cupcake. He loves fishing with his grandfather.
Few third-graders, however, address the Tacoma Metro Parks board, then the Tacoma City Council, on back-to-back nights.
This week, Louden did just that. He squeezed them in between school, a piano lesson and basketball practice. The piano lesson, which came just before he met with the City Council, didn’t go well.
“I got yelled at for not practicing enough,” he said.
A student at Blix Elementary school, Louden is part of Tacoma Public Schools’ JAWS program – short for Joining Abilities With Subjects. It’s for gifted students, and he spends one day a week with teacher Kathleen Casper.
“Louden is precocious, confident and a hard worker interested in making changes in the world,” Casper said.
At JAWS, students from third to fifth grade are given a year-long project. They research it, and Casper urges them to write about their topic to someone in authority. Reading that letter to them in person is an option.
Louden’s subject? The Middle Ages.
“I wanted my project this year to be weapons and armor, but that turned out to be a junk topic.” he said. “If you pull it up on computer, it’s a bunch of games. I changed it to the Middle Ages.”
First impressions after reading about that era?
“I’d rather live now,” Louden said. “They had the Black Death.”
The son of Marin and Shannon Miller, Louden would be hard-pressed to live a more normal life. He has a younger sister, Aislynn, 6, and a younger brother, Liam, 4. Dad is a principal at Twin Lakes Elementary in Federal Way; mom is a nurse.
They say Louden has always been curious and creative.
“When he was 3 or 4, he loved Star Wars, and he took one of those big empty water bottles, put one of my mixing bowls on top and taped it on and made an R2-D2,” Shannon Miller said. “It was around here quite awhile, but eventually I needed my mixing bowl back.”
Almost held back a year before entering kindergarten, Louden started school on time and had no trouble despite being one of the younger kids in his class.
“I did fine, but it took quite a while to find out I was special,” Louden said.
“His second grade teacher told us his test scores were off the chart in math and in the 98 percentile in reading,” his mom said. “He qualified for JAWS.’
And as his appreciation for the Middle Ages grew, Louden accepted his teacher’s challenge and decided to address the Metro Parks board.
But what to say? At first, he considered asking the parks district to create a statue of Robin Hood. Then, a medieval park.
He recruited his father to type his letter, listened to his dad’s ideas. The content and delivery, however, were all Louden.
First, he told the commission he was hardly new to the parks system.
“I have played football, basketball, soccer and baseball in Metro Parks sports leagues,” he told them. “I swim at Eastside Pool.”
Then he went for the kill, pitching his medieval park idea.
“The Middle Ages are important because children do not know about history,” he said. “Plus, you can charge money and have a snack bar. I would love to help you. I look forward to receiving your response.”
He got one quickly.
“I talked to him, walked into the lobby with him after he spoke,” said Shon Sylvia, the director of recreation and community services. “I was excited he took time, went before the board and gave his ideas.
“What a fun request. I can safely say, we’re not ready to do a park, maybe not a full Renaissance Fair.”
But it prompted Sylvia to think about an event Metro Parks is holding on June 28-29, called Rock the Bowl, complete with entertainment, obstacle course and games. The day after Louden spoke, parks officials talked about adding a Middle Ages flavor.
“Louden’s being there influenced our thoughts,” Sylvia said.
One night after his first public address, Louden followed up by reading a newly edited letter to the City Council. It was yet another learning experience.
“I was fine at Metro Parks,” he said. “I was a lot more nervous before City Council because that was on television. There was a much bigger audience because of television – a lot of people watch.”
There was also a major perk.
“I got my picture taken with the mayor.”Larry LaRue: 253-597-8638 larry.larue@ thenewstribune.com