This fall, humanities teacher Clay Drinko brought the concept of civics to life alongside his 7th and 8th grade students.
An important part of High Meadow's mission is to foster civic engagement within a diverse and inclusive culture. From the age of three, students participate as full members of our democratic learning community. As they grow, the also begin to explore the rights and responsibilities of local, state, national, and global civic participation.
Throughout the fall, our 7th grade class dove deep into the three branches of government, the Constitution, and the Articles of Confederation. As Clay puts it, they trained their focus on “how we came to have the system we do, why it exists.”
Their work began with student-directed inquiry projects exploring what government is in the first place, and some of the forms governments have taken through time and around the world. Small research groups reported on topics like Communism, anarchy, and monarchy.
The 8th grade studied governments’ role in economics, at both personal and societal levels. They explored the Gilded Age and the New Deal, wrestling with big questions like, “Was it a good deal and for whom?” “What are the causes and effects of economic inequity?” “What are some impacts of the Progressive Era?”
After reading about the 1929 crash, the class wanted to know more about stocks and the stock market. The group created a Thursday stock-trading game, with a goal of beating “the market” as represented by an index fund.
“This game was an interesting way for the students to figure out how the market works,” Clay says. In the end, only one student fared better than the index fund.
Together, 7th and 8th grade explored the legislative branch through role playing, representing the House and Senate, respectively. They formed committees and drafted bills intended to improve something about our school community, with Clay holding ultimate power to veto or sign a bill.
“They saw just how difficult it is to pass anything!” Clay says. In the end, he signed one bill into law, which gives High Meadow until the end of the summer to install wooden doors and locks to add security to the middle school cubbies.
To extend their learning off-campus, 8th graders visited the FDR Library and Vanderbilt Mansion in Hyde Park. 7th graders visited the George Washington Headquarters in Newburgh as a lens on the American Revolution.
Both grades also attended a session of Ulster County Court in Kingston, seeing for themselves how the judicial branch impacts the lives of their neighbors. They were lucky to hear directly from County Court Judge Hon. Bryan Rounds, and to witness an extraordinary hearing in which the prosecution and defense collaborated to gain early release for a man who’d been unfairly incarcerated since 2012.