Spotlight on Civic Simulations
We the People of Utah Law-Related Education Today I had the great pleasure of once again judging a middle school’s We the People competition, in this case West Jordan Middle School. A special shout out to Ms. Gibbons, Mr. Shields, Ms. May, Ms. Wightman, Mrs. South, Mrs. Bagley, and the administration at West Jordan Middle School. If you are not familiar with “We the People,” it’s a mock Congressional hearing where a panel of students have prepared an opening statement on a constitutional issue and then answer questions from a panel of judges. Now think about what had to be done this year by our teachers and students in order to make this event happen. Some students were learning on site and some learning via distance education, so the student teams had to navigate that challenge to prepare. Add to that the fact that each community member volunteering as a judge needed to do so over Zoom, and that scoring materials and training materials all had to be created for digital use; each student panel had to be ushered into the appropriate breakout room to present to their judging team; and then the teams of students had to present virtually, making themselves heard while wearing their masks, and helping bring their presentation’s words to life. No small feat! In the unit I judged - along with a parent volunteer - these 8th grade students were discussing and sharing their views on the responsibilities of citizens, the protections the Constitution provides for participation, e.g. petition, voting, peaceful assembly, the ways students their age can participate in government, and what makes a good citizen--all in ten minutes. As a reminder, the Utah Civic Learning Collaborative (UCLC) is an informal grouping of stakeholders who are engaging in civic education. The six proven practices and four promising practices of civics education help frame and organize our collaborative efforts into smaller working groups. At our next meeting, we will be able to share more of the work being done and look for more opportunities for supporting and nurturing civic learning.