Are you smarter than a Bluffdale fifth-grader?
If you can answer the following question, you might be as smart as the fifth graders in Melanie Fisher’s Bluffdale Elementary’s class:
“What is more important: the common good or individual rights, in your opinion?”
Fisher’s class studied a civic education program called “We the People” to prepare to answer that question and many others.
Their study began in earnest in January and culminated in a simulated congressional hearing on May 2. The hearing was judged by Bluffdale Mayor, Derk Timothy, Rep. LaVar Christensen (R-Draper) and Bluffdale Elementary Principal Karen Egan.
“Most of the educators who have done this program keep doing it. The students who participate in this program out-perform their peers in end-of-level testing in science, math and language arts. This program helps students be engaged and involved. This group knows the information in a remarkable way. They have made tremendous growth,” Fisher said.
“We the People” has been used since 1987, and requires that teachers spend three weeks training in the Washington D.C. area to teach its concepts. However, it was just recently cut from the national education budget.
Fisher’s students studied the Founding Fathers, the writing of the Constitution, watched the news, and learned about the rights and responsibilities citizens have. They also participated in many hands-on activities.
“In class, three groups of four or five kids acted as the three branches of government and did what they would do. The rest of the class acted as the citizens. The three groups of government made an unfair law and the citizens had to petition to get rid of that law,” student Cody Cowley said.
Students also re-enacted the Constitutional Convention.
“We had to act and have the same opinion as the person we were assigned. After many arguments and heated conversations, we were finally able to reach the same agreements that the original Framers had. I think this helped us all get involved, learn and have fun,” student Liberty Howell said.
Preparing the fifth-graders for a simulated congressional hearing required help from outside the classroom.
“We had at least 15 parent volunteers come in once or twice a week to listen to speeches and practice questions with the students. It felt like everyone was invested,” Fisher said.
Fisher has done the “We the People” program with her students for four years.
“The mayor comes every year to judge this activity. A week or two after the activity, he sends the students a personal letter each, and gives them a Constitution pocketbook. They love it,” she said.
At the end of the hearing, Team Franklin won by one point. The team members included Tessa Watson, Duston Oborn, Kobe Shaw, Chantelle Porter and McKay Ballard.
“It taught me so much about the government, how it was set up, and what I could do if I didn’t like something that was happening,” student McKay Ballard said.