Civic Engagement In The Classroom . . . We The People

adam-topliff

This week’s blogger is Adam Topliff: I teach 8th Grade Social Studies & Civics at Wamego Middle School in Wamego, KS.  I love all things Hamilton!


 

It’s that time again! Teachers and kids across the nation are preparing to head back to school.  As we prepare to kick-off the new school year, it might be important to start considering the ways you are working to develop more civic engagement with your students.  For the past couple of years, Education Commissioner Watson has stressed the importance of an education that develops the 21st century student.  One key element of that is having our kids understand their role in the world around them and how they can impact it.  In short, we are talking about civic engagement.  Check out the KSDE HGSS site to learn more about the initiatives to bring more civics to classroom.  

A key aspect of the civic engagement initiative is Civic Knowledge:

Civic knowledge begins with a fundamental understanding of the structure of government, and the processes by which law and policy are made. It also requires an understanding of the history that shapes the present, and the geography and economics that impact policy options.

This might seem like an easy task, but finding high quality resources that engage students in a deeper level of civic knowledge beyond simply defining the three branches of government can be problematic.  Enter: We The People.

The We The People Curriculum is one of the most comprehensive resources to assist you teaching deep, meaningful civic knowledge.  Your students do not simply learn the structures and hierarchy of government, they look at the roots of how we have created this thing called the American Republic.  They investigate and debate the intent of the words used to carve out our Constitution and how it continues to evolve today.  Textbooks  are developed for all three levels (elementary, middle & high) yet maintain the same themes and ideas through all.

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We The People – Middle Level Text

I have used the book for several years in my 8th Grade Social Studies class with great success.   

The questions are engaging, designed to lead to difficult conversations that challenge the students to consider their own opinions. That gives you the chance to practice good civil discourse.

The textbook curriculum is really only the beginning.  The We The People program also includes an opportunity for your kids to demonstrate their understanding through the state and national mock hearing competition.  This is the culmination of the implementation of the We The People text and curriculum program.  Your students “testify” in a simulated mock congressional hearing before a panel of judges acting as members of Congress.  Students demonstrate their knowledge and understanding of constitutional ideas and principles and have the opportunity to evaluate, take and defend positions on relevant historical and contemporary issues.  Take it from me, you should check this out!  Wamego Middle School took part in the first Kansas Middle School state hearing last year and the kids blew me away with how well they engaged in the question and and discussion with the judges, having deep meaningful conversations with state officials, educators and leading legal officials who served in these roles.

Preparations are already underway for this year’s high school and middle school competitions. This year will also bring the first elementary level event.  If you want to learn more about getting involved, contact our state We The People coordinator, Tom Vontz, at tvontz@ksu.edu.  Check out the We The People site to learn more about the program and all the goodies that it has to offer.

About Kori Green

I teach 8th grade social studies at El Dorado Middle School in El Dorado, KS. I enjoy U.S. history, dabble in British history, and love incorporating technology in the classroom.

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