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The Forgotten Americans


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Project

Grade Levels: 7-12

Estimated Time: Two weeks to gather information, work as a group, and write an essay.

Overview: Students will gain a better sense of the democratic process through a better understanding of community organizing.

Objectives:

The students will:

  • Learn about the democratic process.
  • Gain a better understanding of local government.
  • Gain a better understanding of community organizing.
  • Record the experience.

Related National Standards:
This lesson addresses the following national content standards established by MCREL at http://www.mcrel.org/:

Social Studies

  • Knows beliefs that are common to American political culture (e.g., belief in equality of opportunity; mistrust of power, as well as high expectations of what elected officials and government should do; the need to admit to faults or shortcomings in the society; the belief that social, economic, or political problems can be alleviated through collective effort).
  • Knows some of the discrepancies that have arisen between American ideals and the realities of political and social life in the United States (e.g., the ideal of equal justice for all and the reality that the poor may not have equal access to the judicial system).
  • Knows how various individual actions, social actions, and political actions can help to reduce discrepancies between reality and the ideals of American constitutional democracy.
  • Understands issues regarding personal, political, and economic rights.
  • Understands how certain character traits enhance citizens' ability to fulfill personal and civic responsibilities.
  • Understands how participation in civic and political life can help citizens attain individual and public goals.

Economics

  • Understands unemployment, income, and income distribution in a market economy.
  • Understands that wages and salary are influenced by forces of supply and demand for labor, as well as an individual's productivity, education, training and skills.
  • Understands that personal income is influenced by changes in the structure of the economy, the level of gross domestic product, technology, government policies, production costs and demand for specific goods and services, and discrimination.

Health Education

  • Knows environmental and external factors that affect individual and community health.

This lesson also addresses the following national content standards established by the National Council of Teachers of English at http://www.ncte.org/standards/thelist.html :

Procedure:

  • Select groups of four to five students and let each group choose a community problem or issue that they feel is important.
  • Ask them to research the topic on the Internet and report back to others in the group about what is being done to alleviate this problem or issue in other communities.
  • Have the group vote on a solution or way of approaching the concern.
  • Have the students present their ideas to a government officials for feedback.

Assignment:

  • Have each student keep a journal about their experiences including how they decided on an issue and how the group decided on a solution or way of approaching the issue.
  • Have the group present a report to the rest of the class on what they found out. Also, what they would need to address the issue. Also, ask the students to explain what resources they would need to address the issue. Have the students think about what strategy they would develop if they worked in government.

Assessment Recommendations:

  • Teachers should set standards for the project before it is assigned based on individual work and group work. Also, determine how much time should be spent on the lesson as well as the amount of research required. For example, seek student input on what will make a successful reports and how they should be presented to the class.
  • Ask your students to grade themselves and their peers. Decide as a class what percentage of the total grade should come from peer feedback and self-assessment.
  • Decide on specific skills that you want to emphasize, for example, group work, leadership, research abilities, collective learning, and presentation skills, and grade accordingly.

Extension and/or Adaptation Ideas:

  • Have the group write a television news report, a Web site or a newspaper article on the problem and or what groups in the community are working.
  • Have the group or each individual student write a review of Democracy and how well democracy is working in this day and age.
  • Have the students make appointments with city or county officials, express their concerns, and present their plan.

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