James Madison Legacy Project summer institutes are in full swing this summer, engaging teachers in civics-oriented professional development courses across the country. Our week-long workshops serve teachers from schools serving high-needs populations in the We the People curriculum that encourages civic engagement and an informed citizenry. These institutes are part of a larger initiative to enhance the knowledge and skills of civics and government teachers who are steadfast in promoting student achievement across the nation.
JMLP sites provide either the traditional We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution professional development course or the Center’s new blended-learning variation of the traditional model. This new blended model provides participants with an interactive online course facilitated by educators trained in the curriculum.
Participants interact with lawyers, judges, state and local representatives, and professors of law, history, and political science who provide expert knowledge to our teacher/students. These guest speakers bring context and real-life experiences in their respective fields to make the content even more engaging. In Florida, for instance, participants worked with Justice Lawson of the Florida Supreme Court and regional directors for Senators Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson. One group of JMLP teachers in Virginia visited James Madison’s Montpelier, a plantation house of the Madison family to see colonial history up-close and outside of the classroom.
The blended model also includes videos featuring experts from across the country discussing topics that correlate with the We the People curriculum. All of the summer institutes conclude with a simulated congressional hearing where teachers work in teams to research and prepare testimonials about a unit of the textbook. They answer questions related to their assigned topics, displaying the knowledge and critical thinking skills that they have developed through the summer institute.
No matter the model implemented, JMLP teachers come away with more content knowledge and strategies to help them feel confident about using the We the People curriculum in their classrooms. If you participated in a JMLP summer institute, check out our Flickr page for more photos.