The “driving question” guiding their learning, was: How might we design a tool that empowers citizens to act on their rights? Their studies began with a staged arrest of Learning Coach Jake Thompson, just for disagreeing with an opinion of the majority. As a follow up, young citizens researched and learned about the basic freedoms found in the United States Bill of Rights. Students came to the realization that as American citizens, we have specific rights.
In order to better understand what citizenship means, they spent some time learning about the structure of our government and the different levels of representation. Third grade teacher Mr. Andres reached out to Senator Johnny Isakson, an expert in citizenship and civic life, to schedule a town hall meeting with the entire third grade via Skype. Senator Isakson shared his perspectives on citizenship, issues affecting Georgians, and his dedication to serve others. The students were interested to find out that the senator receives over a million emails from his constituents and works hard to address each one. The Senator took time out of his schedule a week prior to his reelection this year.
To review citizenship from a local level, the grade met with Rusty Paul, the mayor of Sandy Springs. Mayor Paul discussed the importance of voting, how to get engaged in a local community as a citizen through coaching recreational teams, creating traffic plans, balancing budgets, making difficult decisions on behalf of his constituents, meeting with the Chief of Police and the City Manager regarding the needs of the people of Sandy Springs. He shared that there is nothing more important than connecting with Sandy Springs citizens, especially third grade students. He quoted Jack Kemp, his role model, who said, “You serve your party best by serving your country first.”
During early voting, the students took a field trip to neighboring Sandy Springs library, specifically to observe local citizens going through the process, exercising their right to vote.
At the culmination of the PBL, students answered the guiding “How Might We” question by designing tools ranging from a device to help jurors understand the rights of the accused in a trial, to recording public service announcements to help citizens better understand their rights.