FORT WAYNE, Indiana (WANE) – A quartet of eighth-graders sit side by side in a social studies class at Carroll Middle School. Across from them is an overseer who asks a variety of questions centered on the US government and the Constitution.
One by one, each student responds by taking their time to give a thoughtful response.
Although this is only a practice session, students in this class are becoming more comfortable with the format of an âWe the Peopleâ competition. The program teaches students basic civic education such as government structure, US history while providing students with the opportunity to create and defend their own positions on key topics.
Students at Carroll Middle School recently competed in the regional round, with a group qualifying as a wild card for the state competition taking place in Indianapolis on December 7.
Compared to many students across the state, these students might be considered ahead of the curve when it comes to learning civics and the structure of the U.S. government.
Currently, students are not required to take government or civics classes through high school. However, a state law passed in the last session of the Indiana General Assembly will require students to take a one-semester civics course. from 6th to 8th grade. These requirements will come into effect no later than July 2022.
Social studies teachers Daniel Lestinsky and Maria Culbertson are leading the way for these students. Lestinsky taught at Carroll Middle School for 13 years, while Culbertson is in his first year in the district.
âWe the peopleâ is considered an extracurricular activity for most schools. Lestinsky, however, incorporates the program into his lesson plans. As a result, every student in their classes will get hands-on civic education lessons.
Lestinsky and Culbertson are both blown away by how much students can get out of these classes, especially when competing.
âJust having these conversations about the Constitution and learning how to talk about it with a civil discourse is amazing,â Lestinsky said. âWhen you get to competition day you see they’re nervous, you see they don’t know how they’re going to behave, but you still see those brilliant moments that just blow your mind completely. “
Several students became passionate about civic education throughout the semester. Hear a few explain how the âWe the Peopleâ program inspired them to become informed citizens in their community.