The number of We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution hearings in Fairbanks middle schools increased this year with the involvement of nearly 400 middle school students. Randy Smith Middle School teacher Carla Yetter and John Eielson Junior/Senior High School teacher Liz Liefer conducted joint simulated congressional hearings with their We the People classes in the boardroom of the local school district’s offices. Judging the hearings were William Bodle, Assistant Principal of Randy Smith Middle School; Dan Callahan, a local attorney and state competition judge; Peggy Carlson, Curriculum Coordinator; Terrence Cole, Director of the Office of Public History at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks; John Fink, Assistant Principal at John Eielson Junior/Senior High School; and Molli Sipe, Teaching American History Grant Coordinator.
Annie Armstrong’s students from Tanana Middle School in Fairbanks participated in a We the People hearing at the Rabinowitz State Courthouse. Judging the hearings were Royce Chapman, aide to Representative Don Young (AK-At Large); Mary Ellen Allen, Ph.D. candidate; Steve Laroe, mentor teacher; Molli Sipe; and preservice teachers Pamela Flory, Sean Genson, and Kelly Snider.
Royce Chapman, aide to Alaska Representative Don Young (AK-At-Large) meets Tanana Middle School students. Chapman participated as a judge during We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution simulated congressional hearing held in Fairbanks.
On October 24, 2006, Governor Janet Napolitano signed House Bill 2788, creating a nine-member state commission on civic education and civic engagement during a daylong event called “Strengthening the Civic Mission of Arizona Schools through Partnership.” The event took place on the campus of the Thunderbird School of Global Management in Glendale and brought together local, state, and national leaders to discuss improving civic education in Arizona schools. During the event, We the People students from Glendale’s Mountain Ridge High School and Mesa’s Dobson High School participated in a discussion that included retired U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. The students tackled questions ranging from the use of executive privilege during Watergate to the right of senators to filibuster.
U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Sandra Day O’Connor questions Arizona We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution students about constitutional issues during an October 24, 2006, event at the Thunderbird School of Global Management in Glendale.
California State Senator Jeff Denham hosted a group of Project Citizen students from Empire Elementary School at the state capitol in Sacramento on February 5. The students were part of a leadership program at the school called the Project Citizen Task Force, which is composed of third-, fourth-, and fifth-grade students.
Denham spoke to the students about the importance of community involvement and how they can make a difference through civic participation. To end their visit, the students were introduced to the full Senate during the floor session and were allowed to view the session from the Senate gallery.
California State Senator Jeff Denham met with Empire Elementary School students at the California State Capitol in Sacramento on February 5.
At Empire Elementary, the students are using Project Citizen to reduce waste from the cafeteria. Their proposed policy is to use vermiculture—composting using worms—or traditional composting to recycle discarded food.
In the fall of 2006, the class participated in Constitution Day activities, which included an introduction to Project Citizen. Tiffani Burns, District Representative for State Senator Denham, presented the students with a certificate from the senator.
Newly elected student body officers at Empire Elementary School with principal Bob Dittman (left) and Tiffani Burns (center) District Representative for California State Senator Jeff Denham.
Cajon Valley Middle School of El Cajon received a 2006 Golden Bell Award on December 2, 2006, in San Francisco. The Golden Bell Awards program recognizes outstanding and innovative programs in school districts and county offices of education that have been developed and successfully implemented by California teachers and administrators. Cajon Valley Middle School received an award in the English Language Acquisition category for their Newcomers Program, which includes elements of the We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution and We the People: Project Citizen curricula.
“I consider this to be a major obligation of English as a Second Language teachers because these kids do need to know about governments that can and do work relatively well,” said teacher Maryann Ostermeyer. “If these kids eventually are to become a part of our country, then it is extremely important that we train them well.”
The rigorous award application process included an on-site classroom visit by evaluators. “They were extremely impressed that kids who had been in the country less than three years or so could know so much about our government and the Constitution,” said Ostermeyer.
The superintendent, assistant superintendent, superintendent in charge of finances, school principal, three school board members, and school donors attended the awards ceremony.
District of Columbia
The district’s largest single-school We the People event was held on November 1, 2006. Eighth-grade social studies teacher Jessica Sutter from the Knowledge Is Power Program DC at KEY Academy organized the simulated congressional hearing. More than 60 students participated with several congressional staff, lawyers, nonprofit workers, and teachers volunteering to judge the hearings.
Alexandra Montesino, a former Project Citizen student at Hialeah Middle School, won the Miss Miami Teen USA 2007 competition in May 2006. During the pageant, Montesino spoke of her Project Citizen class’s effort, led by teacher Jackie Viana, to combat drug sales to students by increasing the penalty for selling drugs near parks and libraries. That effort was taken up by a subsequent class and led to the eventual adoption of a state statute signed into law by then-Governor Jeb Bush.
The efforts of Project Citizen students from the Margaret Murphy Center for Children in Auburn resulted in the installation of crosswalks and school zone signs like the one shown here.
Students from Margaret Murphy Center for Children, a school for autistic and developmentally disabled children in Auburn, used Project Citizen to determine that crosswalks and school zone signs were needed to protect the safety of students. After writing a letter to the Auburn Police Department, an officer spoke to the class and afterwards contacted the local public works department on behalf of the students. Within a week, the new school zone signs were installed.
Michigan Representative Pete Hoekstra (MI-02) visited Dave Vermeulen’s Project Citizen class at Nellie B. Chisholm Middle School in Montague, where five eighth-grade social studies students presented their public policy proposal on hearing loss caused by MP3 players. As part of the students’ proposed public policy, they suggested that manufacturers of MP3 players and similar music devices be required to place warning labels on product packages to inform consumers about the danger of hearing loss.
Michigan Representative Pete Hoekstra (MI-02), far left, visited Project Citizen students and teacher Dave Vermeulen, far right, at Nellie B. Chisholm Middle School in Montague, Michigan. Photo courtesy of Dave Vermuelen, Nellie B. Chisholm Middle School
Bishop Guertin High School in Nashua has adopted the We the People: The Citizen & the Constitution high school text as its social studies curriculum. In preparation for using the program, several teachers attended the weeklong New York State Summer Institute in August 2006. Nine teachers have been trained in the curriculum and use it in their classrooms. This is the first time We the People materials have been adopted school-wide in New Hampshire.
Project Citizen District 3 Coordinator and Laverne Elementary School teacher Janet Cook received the Teacher of the Year award from the Oklahoma Supreme Court during a ceremony on February 20 at the state capitol in Oklahoma City. Through their participation in Project Citizen, Cook’s fourth-grade students have identified numerous public policy problems and presented their own solutions to the school and town board.
Project Citizen students at York One Academy, under the direction of teacher Arsonia Stroud, have been laying the foundation to bring a Boys and Girls Club to the city of York.
The students’ Project Citizen portfolio was featured at the Project Citizen national showcase at the National Conference of State Legislatures’ annual meeting in Nashville, Tennessee in August 2006. The portfolio earned a rating of Superior, the highest ever earned by a South Carolina school. The students were successful in arranging a meeting between the York City Council and representatives of the Boys and Girls Clubs of America. A city council committee is currently researching the proposal.
Students from Casper’s Kelly Walsh High School, the state’s 2007 We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution champions, demonstrate their knowledge of the Constitution and Bill of Rights to the Wyoming State House of Representatives on Wyoming Civic Education Day, February 12, 2007.