Day 42 – ‘We the [8th Grade] People’: A Portrait of Student-Driven Inquiry

Fassold2Walk into Mike Fassold’s sixth period social studies class at Fishers Junior High, and what you won’t hear is a standard lecture. What you won’t see are students silently completing worksheets. Instead, you’ll experience a student-centered learning lab, with groups of students working together as they research and evaluate key questions surrounding  American history, law, and society.

This unique class is all part of We the People, a national competition sponsored by The Center for Civic Education. We the People student teams work in small groups (known as ‘units’) to prepare and present position statements on United States history questions in the areas of philosophy, law, civil liberties, and more. Following the national success of the 2014 Fishers High School We the People team*,  history teacher Fassold explored what it would mean to teach eighth grade U.S. history standards through a We the People framework.

On a typical day in his pilot We the People class (pictured above), Fassold circulates among the units, coaching students as they search for reputable sources and asking timely questions to encourage deep, critical thinking. Though the learning is student-centered, Fassold is still teacher and guide.Fassold1 He worked closely with students to help them build their four-minute opening statements, which they presented today before an authentic audience of legal scholars from the community (pictured on right). HSE21 Shorts will revisit this innovative class later in the year to follow the students’ progress and get their perspective on this unique learning experience. Stay tuned!

*The 2014 FHS We the People team were state champions and finished an amazing 4th place in the national finals held in Washington, D.C.