Don’t underestimate the power of little people. Third-graders at John Wash Elementary, in Sanger Unified, are embarking on a new academic adventure to show just how powerful they can be in their community when they combine their voices with academics and civic-mindedness.
Their work will not only be important in their community, but students are getting to see academic standards and objectives in action. They are getting hands-on experience as they use their knowledge to be agents of change. The civic learning pilot project began in October and will continue on to the end of the school year.
It started as students took pictures around their community. After much investigation, they’ve decided to embark on a quest to address the issue of littering. The third-graders have been engaged in learning about why people litter, the effects of littering and what can they do to reduce the problem. By the end of December, the students decided on a plan of action to carry out in January.
Why is a civic learning project like this important? Too many Americans feel disengaged from their communities and the political process. But, as these students are finding out, there are many ways to get involved in their school and the issues that affect them and their families.
The students have even met Assemblyman Jim Patterson. Politics are becoming more familiar to them.
“So I know if I want to change it, I can tell the mayor about it and he can make a law about it,” said one student after Patterson’s visit.
Several students have also commented that it makes learning and school more interesting.
“It makes school more interesting because if you don’t learn it, you can’t change it,” remarked Aubrey. It will be exciting to see what action the students decide to take to make a difference on littering in their community. Whoever says that young people don’t know about the world around them or can’t make a difference has not yet met this group of third-graders at John Wash.
As Mannat said about civic learning, “I like it because it teaches us the matters of the world.”
They know what it takes to be involved in their community and are beginning to learn what can be accomplished when we work together in a democracy as rich and diverse as ours.
Rachel Buhr is the civic-learning coordinator for John Wash Elementary School in Sanger.