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Obama Inauguration Teacher Forum

What can you do with your students before January 20 to make the experience more meaningful? How can you sustain interest in politics and civics? Two teaching experts answered your questions on teaching the Obama inauguration during a 20-minute discussion.

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    Hello and welcome to a special NewsHour forum on "Teaching the Inauguration." I'm Leah Clapman, managing editor of NewsHour Extra, the Web site dedicated to news for students and resources for teachers and we're using questions submitted from teachers all over the country to discuss activities such as throwing your own inaugurational ball, writing President Obama's inaugural address and how to keep students interested in civics and government.

    Joining me by phone to help us answer these questions and others are Syd Golston, longtime teacher and incoming president of the National Council for the Social Studies and Donna Schell, social studies curriculum specialist for the Scottsdale School District in Arizona. Welcome, Syd and Donna.


    Thank you.


    Let's start with you, Syd. How can teachers prepare their students for January 20th?


    I think the important thing is that they do prepare their students and take the time from very crowded curricular requirements to see that these hundred days and this inauguration will be remembered by students when they are 50 and 70 years old and the relevance – the teachable moment that's being presented to students is so great that taking a whole day to show some of the things we'll be talking about to work on some of the preparation we'll be mentioning is really an important thing.

    I think in times like these where there really is a crisis and an important turning point, the community has a covenant with social studies teachers to tell the kids what's going on, to explain, for instance, with some sense of hope for the future about financial cycles, about presidential agendas so that students will be, eventually, the citizens we hope – we want them to be.


    And in preparing for this day, do you have suggestions about how to deal with the history of inaugurations? Donna?


    Okay, well, first off, I'd want students to understand that the inauguration is a celebration steeped in tradition and symbolism and it's a celebration for all Americans, including them. I'd like them to understand that it's a day that the candidate becomes the president of all the people, whether or not they or their parents supporting him during the election process. I'd also emphasize the social history of the event because I think that's what people are interested in and curious about.

    The Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies provides wonderful historical background, trivia, interesting bits of tidbits about people, and memorabilia associated with the different traditions of the inauguration on their Web site. For instance, who sits on the platform, the cost of the most expensive inaugural gown – that happened to Nancy Reagan at over $22,000. The year that Geronimo participated in the parade is another fact they could find out from the site. The main events of the inaugural celebration could be developed into inter-centers, allowing students to choose the part of the inauguration that they would like to learn more about.

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