I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand. I thought of this ancient quote about experiential learning as students in grades 7 and 8 recently participated in a Classroom Constitutional Convention. Hearing, seeing, and doing were all part of the learning experience over the course of about a week and a half. For our Constitutional Convention, each student was given an identity of a historical delegate to the 1787 Convention in Philadelphia. Students researched the life of the delegate and studied the viewpoints of the delegate and how the delegate would have probably voted on the major issues regarding the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of government. After a few days of preparation, the classroom became the Pennsylvania State House in Philadelphia. We even closed the door and shut the blinds. Students assembled to express the late 18th-century political views in the new United States of America. Would representation in the legislative branch be based upon population, or wealth, or by some other means? For the executive branch would we have a king or a council of executives? Would the word “President” even come up at this meeting? Would a Judicial Branch be necessary? Over the course of the week, students spoke on these and other vital historical issues. Students began to realize that these issues are still relevant today. Arguments and counter-arguments were heard, motions were passed or denied, and votes were counted. Finally, a Constitution was scribed by our Secretary and President of the Convention, and delegates, if agreeing with the Constitution in its present form, signed his or her student name and delegate name. Students heard, listened, saw, and participated in a political process. The hope is that experiential learning “sticks” and breeds more interest among students in civics and the social studies.
Mr. Todd McMillan is the Middle School Social Studies and Bible teacher.