Before We the People students attend the We the People National Finals or Invitational, they spend all year preparing by studying the textbook, learning about history and current events, and practicing their answers to the hearing questions. They compete in local and state competitions. One class from North Smithfield High School in Rhode Island even had help from their congressman!
Congressman David Cicilline visited the North Smithfield class and teacher Natalie O’Brien on April 18 to assist them with unit four questions. In preparation, students compiled questions about the For The People Act (H.R.1), updating the Voting Rights Act, and filibuster in the Senate.
“The Congressman also shared some information from the Congressional Research Office; it was incredibly useful. There were some nuanced ideas about how government works that students had not learned from their research,” said O’Brien. For example, a student asked about an eight-hour speech given by Nancy Pelosi about immigration in the 115th Congress, and Cicilline explained the “Magic Minute”—individuals in key leadership positions in the House have an opportunity to speak on the floor about an issue for as long as they want. Although it is called the “Magic Minute,” the Congressman said that the minute never ends.
The Unit 4 team also shared their formal presentation of Question 3 in front of Congressman Cicilline. He offered feedback, giving the students their first direct experience with a judge who could give a first-hand account of the operation of government in Congress.
“The students left energized and more excited than ever,” said O’Brien. “However, I must say that the best resource is really the We the People textbook. It is the foundation of their knowledge and has led to a greater understanding of government and the necessary knowledge to encourage further research.”