Parish Government

The Bigger Picture

Project Rationale

Students’ blog postings represent the culmination of several weeks’ worth of collective efforts – with minimal ‘interference’ from their instructor (me). At the beginning of students’ work in the collaborative process, I described the role I would hope to play by referring to “the guy in the suit” from this YouTube video.

My thinking is simple: best that students offer their views of political action as a sort of antidote to fellow members of their generation who, when it comes to the political process, choose indifference rather than engagement. The pursuit of authenticity, then, requires that students have freedom to create what’s most relevant to them, rather than answering a more traditional “what does the teacher want?” question that so routinely frames their work at school.

I’m keenly aware of the (sobering) fact that my students and I see government and politics from increasingly divergent generational points-of-view. Put simply, I’m on thin ice when I preach to them about why their participation matters. Better for authentic answers to arise from their collaboration.

Project Summary

  • Who: 60+ 11th and 12th grade students in a college-prep Government course.
  • Submissions: Student groups will submit two blog entries.  The first is an ACTION STATEMENT, which is a narrative that describes the group’s political action project in full detail. Action statements may briefly describe the group’s process and rationale as background; however, the document’s defining purpose is to provide a detailed description of political action. The second is an IMPACT STATEMENT, which is a persuasive document that presents a cogent argument: “the group’s political action has been meaningful and impactful because…” Groups explain and analyze evidence that supports their conclusions.
  • Student Groups’ Workspaces: We have used Google sites as wikis, and these spaces are homes for all  the on-line research they’ve collected, all the data they’ve gathered, and all the YouTube videos they’ve created.  I see them as ‘sandboxes’ where students collaborate, brainstorm, and think out-loud creatively on-line. to allow students to collaborate and brainstorm on-line.
  • Duration:  The overall project runs during a 5-week period during our 1st trimester.  The project was introduced in mid-September, and the majority of the work will essentially take place in October. Our deadline corresponds to the midterm elections on November 2, 2010.
  • Opportunities to Collaborate: Please leave comments and engage my students directly!!
  1. Hi – I heard about your project from the PLP program I am in. I think this is AMAZING work you are doing. I am an elementary school teacher in Pennsylvania. I am very impressed with the assignment and the way you are using blogs and wikis to communicate and collaborate. I do wonder at the premise that our young people are not as engaged in the political process. Do you think they don’t care or that they feel discouraged at the enormity of the problems we currently face?

    Good luck with your project and with getting the road improved! I watched thev video of the car driving along the road and it indeed made me feel rather carsick!!
    Ms. Sarah Kinder

  2. Thanks, Sarah – I appreciate you for taking a look at my students’ work and leaving a comment for me! Needless to say, I’m proud of my students’ efforts!!

    I think there’s some truth in what you are saying about the premise in the problem statement. On the one hand, I’ve defined ‘engagement in the political process’ in terms of voter turnout – which seems too narrow in hindsight. And also, the 2008 turnout numbers among younger voters were as strong as we’ve seen in my lifetime.

    When I began developing the assignment, I was thinking more about young people’s engagement in the political process in comparative terms – the stats on voter turnout suggest that young people aren’t as engaged as older Americans, for example. The ‘problem’, then, may be related to which issues take center stage in our political dialogue. I would LOVE to see young people find their voices and then act on issues that will impact them directly in years to come- economic concerns (the deficit and national debt) and environmental issues come to mind…

    … thanks again – you’ve helped to clarify my thinking; next time I think I’d want to collaborate (with students, with colleagues in my PLN) to develop a more precise problem statement.

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