Area teachers using U.S. Capitol mob to spark classroom discussions, learning

Area high school teachers are using the news from last week’s break-in and temporary occupation of the U.S. Capitol in Washington D.C. as fodder for government, social studies and other classroom discussions.

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In the days following rioting by some supporters of President Donald Trump on Jan. 6, a few local school districts issued statements to their students and school families to offer assistance in understanding the incident and its aftermath.

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“We know it is important to allow students to express themselves and their worries, comfort them when needed, and reassure them that they are safe with us in our schools and at home with their families,” said Talawanda School officials in a statement released a little more than 24 hours after the incident.

“We want to make sure our parents and community members know that we have specially trained personnel, a wellness-coordinator, teachers, counselors, psychologists, and social workers available to work with both students and staff to help them understand and navigate these troubling times.”

In Mason School, teacher Maria Mueller saw the incident as a teaching opportunity to use in a variety of school curricula.

“Having already taught these students first semester a simple, ‘Anything going on you want to talk about? ... got students sharing, pondering, and fact-checking,” said Mueller, who teaches U.S. Government and Politics at Mason High School. “Initially, they checked the accuracy of their understanding.

“They inquired about the legal implications of the rioters’ actions which led to a discussion about responsibility, particularly the responsibility of leaders for what they say to their ‘followers.’”

She faced questions that were new.

“Of course, students have never inquired so much about the 25th Amendment than they have recently, and I did not imagine that I’d be back talking about impeachment so soon again either. We happen to be starting a unit on the interactions among the branches of government, so it is all fitting in nicely.”

A Butler Tech teacher took in the breaking news and reached out to her students who were studying remotely to initiate a conversation.

“As you read the news and scroll on social media, I encourage you to be active in reflection,” wrote social studies teacher Valerie Folz. “What evidence is being presented? What is the source? Are they credible? Whose voices are being heard? Whose voices are being dismissed? How is my culture represented/underrepresented? How does this make me feel?”

Mueller said such dialogue from real-life events is key to engaging students.

“Young people like to hear each other’s thoughts, like to build their thoughts from a variety of perspectives, and aren’t afraid to ask good questions,” she said. “I’m sure our conversations will continue.”

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