“A primary object should be the education of our youth in the science of government. In a republic, what species of knowledge can be equally important? And what duty more pressing than communicating it to those who are to be the future guardians of the liberties of the country?”
― George Washington
How many American adults can explain how a Bill becomes a Law? What about the difference between a partisan and a non-partisan election? It would probably scare me to see the statistics on how many adults could explain these concepts that shape our country. This is why teaching government at a young age is imperative.
I, along with 50 other professional women that grew up in South Carolina, give up 7 days of our lives every year to “secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity”. During this “donation” of my time I always seem to walk away with more than I feel I give. We walk 800+ girls through mock government on a state level in a fictitious place we lovingly refer to as Palmetto Girl’s State. The best part about this week long camp for junior girls in high school is that it makes government real and fun because it is interactive. When planning for my current government unit I thought why not incorporate some of the practices we apply during our camp into my classroom, so that is just what I did.
This year we not only learned about how and why the founding fathers set up our government, but more importantly the kids applied the process of how politicians get elected into their offices. The students took an initial survey that placed them into a “Blue” or “Red” team. From there the students were told that we would create all 3 branches of our government in our classroom. First, students would run for the legislative branch in a non-partisan election. All the students had to do to to run was file by signing a piece of paper. Then, they had to create an effective way to explain to their classmates why they should be elected using an app of their choice. Most students used Pinnacle Studios. This app is pretty user friendly, and allows students to incorporate text, video, pictures, and audio to create a fantastic presentation. I can say I was pleasantly surprised with what my students did with out any of my help or guidance. Once the House of Representatives and Senate were voted on and finalized, the students elected started creating bills. I even noticing them “lobbying” to their friends in the other body to pass their bills.
Next, the students ran in a Vice-Presidential primary based on their parties (I made sure none of them could win in a presidential election because obviously I still need the power of veto!) Each student that wanted to be the class Vice-President put together a short presentation and took their turn trying to win votes. At first the students did not understand why they could only see their color’s speeches, and we had an in-depth conversation on political primaries and voting. After each group voted, I announced the Vice-Presidential nominees by putting together an Imovie. I found that this was extremely engaging, and I plan to create more Imovies to introduce topics in class.
It was at this point that the nominees started writing their speeches to present in front of the entire class. While the candidates wrote speeches, teammates created campaign slogans, signs, and commercials to promote their blue or red team mate. When election day came, I was very impressed that my students were writing down valid notes during speeches, and they could explain why they wanted one candidate over another. None of these reasons were because one of the candidates was their friend. Now, all that is left to do is appoint judges to our Supreme Court! My students now have a better grasp on the how politicians get elected and how a bill becomes a law. The best part about this experience is that the students were responsible for deciding what needed to be done and how to present themselves, and they created presentations with very little scaffolding from me!