What are we teaching them?

My students are chatting via video call tomorrow with Ginger's students, and Ginger wisely suggested that we prepare for the meeting. I framed it like this:

Students, you will be in three groups researching one of these topics: (1. The city where these kids live, 2. What is a charter school and 3. TPLC, the school the kids attend.) You will be talking to them tomorrow on a video call and doing this research will help you be prepared, so write down things you know about your topic, write down some things you want to know, then you can get on a computer and start finding and writing down things that you learned. (It is basically a K-W-L chart that one student understood and drew as such on her paper.) The point is to be able to ask thoughtful questions that will help you learn more about them and their life.

I told them they needed to be able to ask the students their questions, but they should be meaningful questions. As I was roaming around the room looking at what they were doing, I was confused at what they were researching. A few of them found the school's website. Four or five of them had a page open about the state but were looking at the flag and finding out what the state emblem, state tree, state bird, state motto --I can see the state motto meaning something, because they could ask whether the students know it and if they apply it to their lives (but I don't think they are going to ask that)--, and other trivia questions about the state. Is it just me, or is that just frivolous stuff that doesn't really mean anything?

I pictured myself as an elementary school teacher making them do that for each state in the nation--much of what I remember from elementary school was just time-sucking research that didn't mean anything beyond the worksheet. Am I wrong, are our ES teachers better than that? Or am I the one at fault for not explaining it better? (Wouldn't be the first time that happened!)

Have a good life.