8th grade students at Carroll Middle School are advancing their knowledge of civics with the “We the People” program.
On Nov. 18, students competed in a mock trail of the “We the People” competition. According to the “We the People” website, the goal of the program is to promote civic competence and responsibility among Indiana’s elementary, middle and high school students.
Social studies teacher Daniel Lestinsky said the program is a 30-lesson curriculum covering philosophies of the United States government, the history leading up to the Revolutionary War, the first constitution, the Articles of the Confederation, constitutional principles, the Bill of Rights, civic participation and more.
The program is incorporated into the social studies classes at the school and every 8th grader will participate in it.
“As we start working on the essays, you see discussions pop up and mini-arguments,” Lestinsky said. “Having those conversations about the constitution and learning how to talk about it with a civil discourse is amazing.”
Social studies teacher Maria Culbertson said it’s incredible to see what the students can do at their ages.
Lestinsky said he doesn’t believe the class will change much when the new civic requirements are implemented in 2022. The Indiana General Assembly passed state law HB 1384 during the most recent session requiring students in grades 6-8 to take a semester-long civics class. As of now, it is not required for students in those grades to take a government or civics class. The new requirements are expected to begin no later than July 2022.
“It gives the kids a really good basis for when they go into high school and start digging into their government classes,” Culbertson said. “They have this foundation and they can grow from that.”
8th grader Miley McCard said the experience has been “cool” because the students have been able to learn more about the country’s history and work with others and present an essay. Classmates Jaden Cochran and Reagan Pickett agreed.
“I think at the beginning of it we all thought it would be a lot harder than it actually was,” Pickett said.
McCard said she’s learned a lot about how the county works and about the Founding Fathers.
Pickett said she’s always had an interest in how the country works.
“For my essay, I learned a lot about the freedoms and how much freedoms we do have,” Pickett said.
All three of the students said they would recommend participating in the program and that it is rewarding.
Five Carroll Middle School “We the People” teams competed at the regional competition via Zoom on Nov. 11. Three of the teams were from Lestinsky’s class and two of them were Culbertson’s class. Lestinsky’s third-period class, the high-interest social studies class, has advanced to the state competition on Dec. 7 in Indianapolis with 14 total teams.
“It would be insane [if we won] because there’s groups down in Indianapolis that have classes dedicated to ‘We the People’ whereas we have to split time,” Cochran said.
Pickett said winning would be a “cool accomplishment.”
For more information about the “We the People” program and competition, visit www.inbf.org/educational-programs/we-the-people.