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IBF provides classes for educational programs

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An annual highlight for participants, mentors, and organizers, the summer institutes for Project Citizen and We The People have once again actively prepared teachers to present civics lessons so students can understand and become responsible citizens.

The Indiana Bar Foundation civics education team hosted the summer institutes at the Indiana University School of Education in Bloomington – one for Project Citizen in June and another for We The People in July. Participants come from Indiana and neighboring states.

Problem solving

Project Citizen is a program that enables students to solve a problem in their community in a creative way while learning how government officials are able to solve the problems of their constituents. The teachers also learn what their students will experience as they work on community projects that help instill a sense of pride in themselves and their communities.

This year brought one change. Indiana was among just a handful of states to include a new focus: international human rights. It’s a subject that is often talked about among students and teachers in other countries, particularly countries that have written their constitutions since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was written more than 60 years ago.

Almost two dozen registered teachers were engaged in the weeklong conference. The opening day discussion was led by Dr. Dan Prinzing, education director of the Idaho Human Rights Education Center. Prinzing, along with Indiana teachers Scott Frye and Lynnette Wallace, served as mentors to the teachers at the institute.

Organizers Erin Braun, Kyle Burson, and Eric Steele said the mentors were an invaluable resource to the teachers at both institutes, as they have gone through the program themselves and were able to help the teachers troubleshoot and consider any issues they may face when back in their own classrooms.

Prinzing talked about how teachers can share with students what they need to know in terms of basic knowledge, such as laws and how policy works, how to use that knowledge to cause change through voting and other means, and why the students need to care or else the other two things don’t matter.

As an example, one teacher in the room said she had a student who was stopped by police. As a result of that student’s experience, she rewrote her curriculum for that class and the students worked on a list of things for juveniles younger than 18 to know if they ever needed to interact with law enforcement.

Frye then explained the two civics standards in Indiana are the steps of how to excel as a citizen – voice opinion, monitor government, and effect and evoke change; and the character traits of a good citizen – participation, cooperation, responsibility, and the newest, respect for others.

Wallace also explained how the projects for Project Citizen work: students first choose a problem to address, such as a littered park; they come up with a few alternative solutions; they propose which policy would be the best; and then they decide on an action plan to present to community leaders who can help implement the project.

Civics We The People’s summer institute featured creative ways to teach civics to students. Team Adams members are, from left, Mickey Campbell, Paul Lawrence Dunbar High, Lexington, Ky.; Kevin Tholin, Riley High School, South Bend; Deborah Cattell, Heritage Middle School, Painesville, Ohio; Leah Tennion-Hogan, Lew Wallace Middle School, Gary; Shawn Denny, Shortridge Middle School, Indianapolis; and team mentor, Michael Gordon, Munster High School, Munster. (Submitted photo)

Other highlights of the week included: Indiana Rep. Chester Dobis, D-Merrillville, who has served since 1970; and former Project Citizen students who shared their experiences with the program.

Active learning

This summer’s weeklong We The People institute hosted about 50 teachers from elementary, middle, and high schools in Indiana, Ohio, and Kentucky.

Similar to the Project Citizen institute, teachers learned what their students will be taught, including the six units for We The People: philosophical and historical underpinnings of the Constitution; writing of and debates about the Constitution; Civil War and President Abraham Lincoln through the civil rights movement; modern day functions of the branches of government and federalism; Bill of Rights and civil liberties; and current applications of the units and international relations.

Throughout the institute, they also prepare and ultimately present mock congressional hearings before those who’ve judged or worked with students in the past, including many attorneys.

The teachers also learned how to present to the students. For instance, during the discussion about a unit that covers the modern functions of the branches of government, Robert Dion, a political science professor at the University of Evansville, said this unit is of interest to students more than some others because it has to do with current events. If nothing else, students do or at least should know who the president is and may have also heard their parents gripe about Congress as a whole or certain members in the news.

He also used pop culture references to explain the difference between empirical questions of fact and normative questions of value, as well as the imperfections of the Constitution.

For instance, he said some questions were too “Pat,” and showed a photo of the androgynous Saturday Night Live character, Pat, to illustrate that some of the questions would be ambiguous, but that was OK because students understand there isn’t always a clear-cut answer to the questions they ask. He added some of these “Pat” questions will make for more work for the teacher and students, but the learning process and research will be worthwhile in the end.

Shawn Denney, an eighth-grade social studies teacher at Shortridge, the Indianapolis Public School system’s magnet school that focuses on law and public policy, said he looks forward to teaching the We The People curriculum to his students.

“We The People encourages students to be critical thinkers in its approach to teaching civics in the classroom,” he said via e-mail. “Instead of being lectured about history, students participate in history by analyzing the ideas of the original framers of the Constitution and then presenting those same concepts in a group setting. We do this in the individual classroom, between other classes, and formally and informally with other schools. The participator nature of We The People seems to help students retain the information. Team work, analytical thinking, research, and public speaking skills are some of the side effects We The People gives Shortridge students.”

While Project Citizen and We The People are funded via congressional allocation, the civics education staff who organized the event is supported by the Indiana Bar Foundation. Their funding partly comes from IOLTA funds, which are low this year because of low interest rates. They also are receiving funds from the “An Hour for Civics” program, available online at www.inbf.org/an_hour_for_civics.

As of mid-July, volunteers had raised more than $21,770, “which makes us almost halfway to our goal,” said Theresa Browning, IBF director of development and communications. “More than 80 attorneys have donated ‘an hour’ so far. I’m not sure what the average billable hour is, but for this campaign it’s $265 – slightly higher than last year.”

She said this is the second year of the campaign and added two firms have signed on for five years of support as charter “Visionary Supporters”: Taft Stettinius & Hollister, and Barnes & Thornburg. As such, the firms commit to a gift of $2,000 a year for five years knowing that supports at least one classroom of students. She said the IBF will sign up firms statewide until December.

The money raised by the campaign will help pay for staff time and resources to organize events such as the summer institutes, teacher training and development, state and district competitions, and all the phone calls and staff time answering teachers and administrators questions as new programs begin.

Bob Beasley, IBF president and in-house counsel for Albany-based Paws Inc., said he thought the civics education programs were a hidden gem in Indiana and wished that more people knew about them. He said he has participated as a judge at the state and national level for We The People, and that any time he mentioned he was from Indiana, participants from other states knew of the program’s strength right away: The Indiana team has consistently placed in the top 10 almost every year since the IBF took it on several years ago.•

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  1. It really doesn't matter what the law IS, if law enforcement refuses to take reports (or take them seriously), if courts refuse to allow unrepresented parties to speak (especially in Small Claims, which is supposedly "informal"). It doesn't matter what the law IS, if constituents are unable to make effective contact or receive any meaningful response from their representatives. Two of our pets were unnecessarily killed; court records reflect that I "abandoned" them. Not so; when I was denied one of them (and my possessions, which by court order I was supposed to be able to remove), I went directly to the court. And earlier, when I tried to have the DV PO extended (it expired while the subject was on probation for violating it), the court denied any extension. The result? Same problems, less than eight hours after expiration. Ironic that the county sheriff was charged (and later pleaded to) with intimidation, but none of his officers seemed interested or capable of taking such a report from a private citizen. When I learned from one officer what I needed to do, I forwarded audio and transcript of one occurrence and my call to law enforcement (before the statute of limitations expired) to the prosecutor's office. I didn't even receive an acknowledgement. Earlier, I'd gone in to the prosecutor's office and been told that the officer's (written) report didn't match what I said occurred. Since I had the audio, I can only say that I have very little faith in Indiana government or law enforcement.

  2. One can only wonder whether Mr. Kimmel was paid for his work by Mr. Burgh ... or whether that bill fell to the citizens of Indiana, many of whom cannot afford attorneys for important matters. It really doesn't take a judge(s) to know that "pavement" can be considered a deadly weapon. It only takes a brain and some education or thought. I'm glad to see the conviction was upheld although sorry to see that the asphalt could even be considered "an issue".

  3. In response to bryanjbrown: thank you for your comment. I am familiar with Paul Ogden (and applaud his assistance to Shirley Justice) and have read of Gary Welsh's (strange) death (and have visited his blog on many occasions). I am not familiar with you (yet). I lived in Kosciusko county, where the sheriff was just removed after pleading in what seems a very "sweetheart" deal. Unfortunately, something NEEDS to change since the attorneys won't (en masse) stand up for ethics (rather making a show to please the "rules" and apparently the judges). I read that many attorneys are underemployed. Seems wisdom would be to cull the herd and get rid of the rotting apples in practice and on the bench, for everyone's sake as well as justice. I'd like to file an attorney complaint, but I have little faith in anything (other than the most flagrant and obvious) resulting in action. My own belief is that if this was medicine, there'd be maimed and injured all over and the carnage caused by "the profession" would be difficult to hide. One can dream ... meanwhile, back to figuring out to file a pro se "motion to dismiss" as well as another court required paper that Indiana is so fond of providing NO resources for (unlike many other states, who don't automatically assume that citizens involved in the court process are scumbags) so that maybe I can get the family law attorney - whose work left me with no settlement, no possessions and resulted in the death of two pets (etc ad nauseum) - to stop abusing the proceedings supplemental and small claims rules and using it as a vehicle for harassment and apparently, amusement.

  4. Been on social security sense sept 2011 2massive strokes open heart surgery and serious ovarian cancer and a blood clot in my lung all in 14 months. Got a letter in may saying that i didn't qualify and it was in form like i just applied ,called social security she said it don't make sense and you are still geting a check in june and i did ,now i get a check from my part D asking for payment for july because there will be no money for my membership, call my prescription coverage part D and confirmed no check will be there.went to social security they didn't want to answer whats going on just said i should of never been on it .no one knows where this letter came from was California im in virginia and been here sense my strokes and vcu filed for my disability i was in the hospital when they did it .It's like it was a error . My ,mothers social security was being handled in that office in California my sister was dealing with it and it had my social security number because she died last year and this letter came out of the same office and it came at the same time i got the letter for my mother benefits for death and they had the same date of being typed just one was on the mail Saturday and one on Monday. . I think it's a mistake and it should been fixed instead there just getting rid of me .i never got a formal letter saying when i was being tsken off.

  5. Employers should not have racially discriminating mind set. It has huge impact on the society what the big players do or don't do in the industry. Background check is conducted just to verify whether information provided by the prospective employee is correct or not. It doesn't have any direct combination with the rejection of the employees. If there is rejection, there should be something effective and full-proof things on the table that may keep the company or the people associated with it in jeopardy.

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