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For Educators - K-12 Promising Approaches

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Maine Dirigo Boys State

Grade Level: Boys who have completed 11th grade

Promising Approaches

  • Instruction in Government, History, Law, and Democracy
  • Guided Discussions of Issues and Current Events
  • Simulations of Democratic Processes

Special Features
Civic Learning Goals
Required Resources
Comments and Reflections from Students
Contact Information


Sponsored by the American Legion, the purpose of Boys State is to provide Maine high school juniors with an opportunity to participate in an interactive program that supplements their high school courses in government and its functions.  In this week-long program that runs in June, young men role-play and learn to campaign for local, county, and state offices. They then organize and carry out the functions of the state government.

Boys State instructors include town and city managers, selectmen, judges, attorneys, members of the House of Representatives and Maine Senate, teachers, guidance counselors and others familiar with local, county or state government. Because of the high quality of instruction, students gain a sophisticated understanding of the political process and workings of government.

Any junior who is interested in learning about town and state government qualifies for Boys State. Information is provided to each school in Maine to give students at all scholastic levels the chance to apply.  Priority is given to attitude over scholastic achievement, although both qualities are desirable.  The final selection of students is made by the local American Legion Post using the names supplied by the school.  For those communities that do not have a local American Legion Post or have a post that is somewhat inactive, schools are responsible for carrying out the selection process and obtaining sponsors.

Special Features

While in some ways similar to other model legislature programs, Boys State stands out by its single gender focus, presentations by current governmental leaders, and its focus on electoral party politics.

Dirigo Boys State also has a band of 30 - 40 students, which operates under the supervision of a qualified musical director.  Two $500 and one $1,000 scholarship winners are selected during this program week. 

Two delegates, chosen by the staff of Boys State, are offered the opportunity to participate in Boys Nation in Washington D.C. in August. 

Civic Learning Goals
Civic Knowledge

  • Key principles, documents, and ideas essential to constitutional democracy
  • Structures, processes, functions, branches, and levels of government and the US legal system

Civic Skills

  • Critical thinking, active listening, analyzing public policies, problems and assets, and understanding multiple perspectives
  • Communicating one’s position through writing or speaking

Civic Dispositions

  • Developing tolerance, respect, and appreciation of difference
  • Developing concern with the rights and welfare of others
  • Developing a belief in one’s ability to make a difference
  • Developing attentiveness to civic matters and a desire to become involved in the civic life of the community

Required Resources
Tuition, which is $230.00 per student, is provided by either local Legion posts or through community solicitations.  The sponsorships often are paid by local businesses or other civic organizations.

Comments and Reflections from Students

“I found being in the Senate to be most informative.  In the Senate, I got to see parliamentary procedure used over and over, and eventually figured out how it worked.”

“I found that the most influencing and informative part of Boys State is learning about parliamentary procedure.  The guest speakers kept me well informed about how the government really works.”

“The people that made this great controlled the actual democratic processes and helped us learn how to make a real difference and to do it using correct procedures.”

“I found the legislature to be most informative due to my lack of knowledge coming into the program.  The counselors were extremely helpful without making it boring.”

“The counselors kept us on track, helped us focus on the matters and made everything interesting.”

“Everyone’s awesome involvement made me much more knowledgeable.  The different view of all made it an even better experience.”

“It was great to get a look at town hall meetings as well as parliamentary procedure.  Yet my favorite part of the week was getting a look at the legal system.”

“I found the petition gatherings and the legislative meetings to be very effective and informative.  I especially enjoyed parliamentary procedure.”

Contact Information

Ron Sailor
American Legion, Department of Maine
P. O. Box 900
Waterville, Maine 04903
Tel: 207-873-3229


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