How Carroll Middle School students are getting a head start on civics class requirements

Local News

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – A quartet of eighth grade students sit next to each other in a social studies classroom at Carroll Middle School. Across from them is a proctor who asks a variety of questions centered on U.S. government and the Constitution.

One by one, each student answers, taking their time to give a thoughtful response.

Carroll Middle School students go through a mock “We the People” competition in class

While this is just a practice session, the students in this classroom are becoming more comfortable to the format of a “We the People” competition. The program teaches students basic civics education such as the structure of government, U.S. history while providing students an opportunity to create and defend their own positions on key topics.

Carroll Middle School students recently competed in the regional round, with one group qualifying as a wild card for the state competition that will take place in Indianapolis on Dec. 7.

Compared to many students across the state, these students could be considered ahead of the curve when it comes to learning civics and the structure of U.S. government.

As of now, students are not required to take any government or civics courses until high school. However, a state law passed in the most recent Indiana General Assembly Session will make it a requirement for students to take a semester-long civics class.from grades 6-8. These requirements will go into effect no later than July 2022.

Leading the way for these students are social studies teachers Daniel Lestinsky and Maria Culbertson. Lestinsky has taught at Carroll Middle School for 13 years, while Culbertson is in her first year in the district.

“We the People” is considered an extra-curricular activity for most schools. Lestinsky, however, incorporates the program into his lesson plans. As a result, every student in his classes will get hands-on lessons on civics.

Both Lestinsky and Culbertson are blown away by how much the students are able to take away from these courses, especially when they are competing.

“Just having those conversations about the Constitution, and learning how to talk about it with a civil discourse, it’s amazing,” Lestinsky said. “When you get to the competition day, you see that they’re nervous, you see that they’re not sure how they’re going to perform, but you always see those bright moments that completely blow you away.”

Several students have become passionate about civics as they go through the semester. Hear from a few on how the “We the People” program has inspired them to be informed citizens in their community.

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