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Herriman Journal

Eighth-graders inspired by study of The Constitution

May 09, 2024 12:50PM ● By Jet Burnham

Fort Herriman Middle School eighth graders Luella Kelsall, Adelaide Simmons and Cecily Mehl celebrate their second place finish at the We the People state competition. (Photo courtesy Jordan Kook)

After months researching topics related to the Constitution, writing a four minute speech and preparing to field questions from judges, Fort Herriman Middle School eighth-graders were thrilled when their efforts earned them a second place finish in their school’s first ever We the People state competition.

“As a teacher, it really was inspiring to see students being so passionate about the government and about the Constitution,” FHMS history teacher Jordan Kook said. “So often in the news, what you hear about with the younger generation is about apathy and issues like that. But it was just so amazing to see students truly engaging and being invested in the government, in the Constitution, their rights, their responsibilities as citizens.”

Herriman Mayor Lorin Palmer, a judge at the preliminary competition, was “blown away” by the students’ demonstration of a strong knowledge of the Constitution and its modern-day applications.

“Everybody in that room walked out of there impressed with these young people, wanting to do better, and study the Constitution and our rights, and really be grateful for what we have in this country,” Palmer said. “I was truly just so impressed.”

He said he hopes the experience will encourage students to be good citizens and to be engaged in local government.

The impact of the experience is already apparent, as many students commented that they discovered an aptitude or an interest in politics, law, or public speaking, which made them reconsider their career choice.

“It’s fun for them to recognize and feel that they have those skills and want to use them in their future,” history teacher Emma Cisneros said.

Luella Kelsall gained the confidence to run for a student government position.

“I never thought that I would do this because I just felt like I didn't have that much confidence in myself to speak, because as a student body officer you have to go speak in front of the school and stuff and I felt like I couldn't really do that,” she said. “But then I got more confidence built up in me after We the People and I felt more passionate about things, especially public speaking and engaging with the school more.”

Kook said the program was so successful because it appealed to all types of students. Whether they enjoyed the academic challenge or the thrill of the competition, they were all engaged in learning.

“As a teacher, you want the students to buy-into your material, and to see the relevance,” Kook said. “I think that this program really does help the students see why history, and the understanding of government and the way it functions, is vital to their lives.”

Cecily Mehl said, at first, the project didn’t sound fun. It required a lot of work in both her history and English classes.

“But then I actually dove into it, and I got to go through all these websites and all these sources, and I have just gained a lot of knowledge,” she said. “I’m really understanding how they felt back then, like in their eyes, and how they thought about all the different things that went into the Constitution.”

Through her research of both the Constitution and current events, Adelaide Simmons noticed parallels between the tensions between the northern and southern states at the Constitutional Convention and the current polarized political climate.

She believes the solution then and now is the same.

“I feel like it's very important to have just like a middle ground and be able to look at both sides of an argument, because there's obviously pros and cons to each person's ideas,” she said. “It's important for you to be open-minded and really just look for what's best for the future of our country.”

 All three Fort Herriman Middle history teachers agreed that specific lesson was one of the most valuable takeaways of the project.

“One of the things that I really stressed was you can have whatever viewpoint you want to put forward—because one of the beautiful things about our country is that everyone can have their own viewpoints,” Kook said. “It's just being able to back up your arguments with evidence, and then demonstrate that you can understand somebody else's point of view whilst disagreeing with them and holding your own viewpoint.” λ



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