Eighth-graders at Gilbert’s Highland Junior High School on Monday pushed to allow students to bring electronics to school, have more social time, and be given free water bottles.
While students won’t be seeing those requests come true, they did learn a lesson about politics as they conducted a mock Congress as part of Constitution Week in Gilbert schools.
Constitution-themed activities are scheduled in classrooms all week in the Gilbert Unified School District, culminating with the sixth-annual Constitution Fair on Saturday at Mesquite High School. The fair will celebrate the Constitution with information booths and activities, performances by Gilbert-based singer Jordan Bluth and action painter Michael Israel, and a fireworks display.
As part of the mock Congress at Highland Junior High, Joe Fraher’s eighth-grade social studies class wrote bills, conducted committee meetings and took floor votes. The class divided up into the House of Representatives and the Senate and played through the legislative process, eventually sending bills to Fraher, who acted as the president.
Through the amendment process and committee hearings, the students learned how to add amendments to keep a bill alive but also how quickly a bill can end up in the “kill bill” box. Fraher instructed the student committees, promoting discussion and amendment, rather than hasty voting, while at the same time pushing the urgency of time in the legislative process.
Many students quickly discovered how to play politics by trying to make deals and persuade their classmates.
“I’m a very good politician,” said student Jordan Keal, who threatened to vote against a bill if his amendment was not passed.
In the classroom next door, students in Andrew Pendola’s class took a mock bar exam and gathered together as law firms to compete for a job from the attorney general.
“This is way more exciting than just listening or taking notes,” student Hunter Wilson said.
Students searched through the text of the Constitution looking for answers to constitutional issues presented to their law firms. They raced though the sections and articles competing to be the first to identify why it’s unconstitutional for Congress not to meet or what offices a person who is not a United States citizen could hold.
“It’s just a fun way to learn about the Constitution,” Pendola said.