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For Educators - K-12 Promising Approaches
Grade Level: 5-12 (competition 9-12)
We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution helps students understand the history of constitutional democracy and cultivates the attitudes they need in order to participate as effective, responsible citizens.
As the culminating activity for the We the People program, participants hold a simulated congressional hearing. The entire class, working in cooperative teams, prepares and presents statements before a panel of community representatives who act as congressional committee members. Students then answer questions posed by the committee members.
We the People textbooks are designed for a wide range of student abilities and may be used as a supplemental text for a full semester of study for upper elementary, middle, and high school students.
We the People is implemented successfully in ESL classrooms and can be easily adapted for students who have special needs.
The We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution network of partners is vast. State programs are partnered with state bar associations and foundations, universities, law-related education organizations, nonprofits, and state departments of education.
A 2001 survey of We the People alumni revealed that they are better informed and participate at higher rates than their peers.
Additional research can be found at http://www.civiced.org/research.php
According to the CMS Review, We the People is grounded in sound democratic history and philosophy. It incorporates engagement by asking students to apply what they've learned. The simulated legislative hearings are great opportunities for students to speak to Constitutional experts and are excellent public speaking experiences.
One teacher and We the People instructional materials are necessary. Library and Internet access are also helpful. Additional teachers and coaches are permitted, but not required.
The curriculum can be taught in as little as six weeks, but teachers usually spend class time during an entire semester. Simulated congressional hearings are held at the conclusion of study of the curriculum.
Middle-school competitions are organized by the teachers themselves.
Videos, teacher’s guides, and supplemental reading resources, are all available. Classroom sets include 30 student books and a teacher's edition. Instructional information and supplies necessary to complete the program are included with the teacher's edition.
The Center and/or the local volunteer coordinators also provide certificates of achievement and appreciation, and other awards. Teachers may contact their state coordinator to receive these materials.
Complimentary classroom sets are available annually on a limited basis (25 sets per congressional district). Additional sets may be purchased from the Center, and range in price from $215 to $575. Classes participating in the competitive program may have additional expenses if they advance from the district competition.
We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution sponsors professional development activities throughout the nation through a national network of state directors, mentor teachers, and scholars. These activities include conferences, workshops, seminars, and study groups. Complimentary materials are provided for participants.
Joe Wagner, Catherine McAuley High School: The primary goal of We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution is to promote civic competence and responsibility among the nation's elementary and secondary students. What makes the program so successful is the design of its instructional program, including its innovative culminating activity.
The instructional program enhances students' understanding of the institutions of American constitutional democracy. At the same time, students discover the contemporary relevance of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
The concluding activity is a simulated congressional hearing in which students "testify" before a panel of judges. Students demonstrate their knowledge and understanding of constitutional principles and have opportunities to evaluate, take and defend positions on relevant historical and current issues.
Shirley Lodge, Massabesic Middle School: I have been a teacher for over 20 years, and the We The People...The Citizen and Constitution has provided me with some of the most
exciting educational experiences I have ever had. While students learn the information described in our local eighth grade Social Studies curriculum and the Maine State Learning Results, the challenges they confront are exhilarating for them and for me.
My students love the text! The fun visuals that accompany the information generate a lot of discussion. The problem solving activities provide students opportunities to think critically about historical and current issues and make personal connections. All students are encouraged to work with their peers and to express themselves verbally as well as listen to
and respect the opinions of others. Students develop an understanding of the privileges they enjoy in our democratic society and learn the importance of their participation and responsibilities as citizens in maintaining it.
Rusty Willette, State Coordinator
Center for Civic Education
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