ERIC Number: EJ1045280
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2014
Writing a School Constitution: Representative Democracy in Action
McGarry, Lorraine S.; Stoicovy, Donnan M.
Social Studies and the Young Learner, v27 n1 p5-7 Sep-Oct 2014
At the beginning of every school year at Park Forest Elementary School (PFE), it is customary for teachers to invite their students to participate in establishing guidelines for behavior and citizenship in their respective classrooms. Teacher Lorraine McGarry and principal Donnan Stoicovy began the 2012-13 school year, however, by taking this process a step further: all students attended a series of eight all-school gatherings, or "Town Hall Meetings," throughout the first two weeks of school, during which classes shared their visions for an ideal school/learning community with one another. Prior to the Town Hall Meetings, teachers facilitated classroom discussions to elicit their students' ideas about their wishes, hopes, and dreams for the school year; visions of an "ideal school"; shared values; and expectations for themselves and others within their learning community. Students from each grade then shared their ideas over the course of eight all-school Town Hall Meetings. While these meetings generated many important ideas for the year ahead, they also evoked some feelings of frustration and boredom because, as one student expressed, "It's hard to hear everybody's ideas" in a large group. Through this process, many students came to recognize the difficulty of sharing ideas and solving problems in a large community using direct democracy. This experience set the stage for a project, spanning six months, to write a school constitution through representative democracy and a constitutional convention. In this article, McGarry and Stoicovy describe how they designed a school-wide learning experience in which all students in grades K-5 could engage with the U.S. Constitution, encountering representative democracy in action through the development of a "PFE Constitution." This gradual process, lasting about six months, proved to be tremendously successful in helping their elementary students understand the U.S. Constitution and the power of representative democracy within their own learning community.
Descriptors: Elementary School Students, Elementary School Teachers, Democracy, Meetings, Student Participation, Student Behavior, Social Studies, State Standards, Academic Standards, Student Rights, Student Responsibility, Legislators
National Council for the Social Studies. 8555 Sixteenth Street #500, Silver Spring, MD 20910. Tel: 800-683-0812; Tel: 301-588-1800; Fax: 301-588-2049; e-mail: email@example.com; Web site: http://www.socialstudies.org
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Elementary Education; Grade 1; Grade 2; Grade 3; Grade 4; Grade 5; Kindergarten
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Pennsylvania
Identifiers - Laws, Policies, & Programs: United States Constitution