Drake W. and Juan N. greet judges Mark Weinrich and Carol Fuller. Submitted Photo

J.L. Bowler Elementary School fifth grade students participated in a simulated congressional hearing Thursday, May 18th, as a part of the “We the People” program. “We the People . . . The Citizen and the Constitution” is a nationally acclaimed civic education program about the history and philosophy of the U. S. Constitution and Bill of Rights

Community leaders served as panels of judges and timekeepers before which the students “testified” as expert witnesses.  Serving as judges and timekeepers were Patsy Junker, Jeff McKenna, Barb Benedict, Michael Waite, Audri Durrence, Sharon Wakefield, Judge Darryll Dodenbier, Kathy Graves, Dennis Lee, Dan Rhodes, Carol Fuller, Barbara Ellestad, Judge Ryan Toone, Merlin Hafen, Karl Gustaveson, Mark Weinrich, Mayo Vitela, Maureen Kuntze, Simon Irvin-Vitela, and Gayle Vitela.  Also acting as a judge was Ms. Jayne Malorni, K-12 Social Studies Coordinator for the Clark County School District.  Many other parents and volunteers helped make the event meaningful and successful for the students.

The students began their part of the formal program by singing “The Star Spangled Banner” and “God Bless the U.S.A.” led by Mrs. Lynette Leavitt, the J. L. Bowler music teacher.  Selected students led the assembly in the Pledge of Allegiance and then a different group of students directed the reciting of the preamble to the constitution as a group before their individual unit presentations began.  After all the unit presentations were over, Jeff McKenna addressed the whole group, exhorting them to continue to show civic virtue and to always celebrate what is good about our country while trying to improve what needs to be changed.

“We the People” is a supplemental program of classroom instruction.  Critical thinking exercises, problem-solving activities, and cooperative learning techniques help develop intellectual and participatory skills while increasing students’ understanding of the institutions of American constitutional democracy.  The curriculum seeks to foster attitudes and skills that are necessary for students to participate as effective, responsible citizens.  The culminating activity for the course is the simulated hearing.

J.L. Bowler fifth graders have participated in “We the People” for many years now in spite of the fact that it is difficult to make the time for the instruction of the program. The fifth grade teachers Mrs. Kelle Sudweeks, Mrs. Arica Cook, and Mrs. Lucy Weinrich all agreed that the program was very beneficial for their students. The teachers also noted that they would not be able to participate in this program without the support of Principal Christopher Jenkins and the rest of the school staff.

The fifth graders learned a lot and appreciated the help of the judges who came.  Lazarus Hecht said, “One thing I liked was I felt I was part of government.”   Gael Godinez observed, “We learned about the purpose of government, that it protects our life, liberty, and property.  When we pick a government we protect self-interest.”  Arlett Salazar said, “If people don’t participate in their government when they have a chance, they shouldn’t be complaining of what the government decides.”

There were many positive responses from the judges.  Many remarked that they look forward to being involved in “We the People” each year.  J. L. Bowler students are very grateful to those community people who take the time to help them practice presenting these important concepts concerning the constitution and citizenship.