Last week, many students were seen at the Town Council, Planning and Zoning Commission (PZC), and Board of Education (BOE) meetings. With pens scribbling across notebooks, they tried to make heads or tails out of the process.
This is because Southington High School teacher Daniel Hart found a creative way to educate his freshmen students about local government.
The ninth graders in his honors civics class were told to attend a government meeting and take notes that would be used for two separate writing pieces. The first was a factual piece about what happened at the meeting, what was discussed, any votes that were taken, etc. The second was an editorial with their opinion on the government officials they observed and the actions that occurred during the meeting.
“Students develop their own headlines and bylines, and create articles that look authentic,” Hart said.
Hart said that the project has been an immediate success. His purpose was to have students engage in the government and act like journalists.
“Since students learn about government and citizenship, what better way than to actually observe it or be a part of it,” said Hart.
The freshman civics course is a graduation requirement, but in future years it will be offered to only the juniors.
Leaders of the town meetings were very receptive to the student attendance and made them feel welcome. Town Council chair Michael Riccio welcomed Hart’s class at the meeting’s open, recognizing the number of kids in the audience.
PZC chair Mike DelSanto invited the students to introduce themselves and state why they were present, followed by having them lead the Pledge of Allegiance.
“Thank Mr. Hart,” DelSanto told the students. “This is important. You should know what’s going on in your town.”
BOE chair Brian Goralski recalled his days in the SHS civics class, when fellow BOE member Bob Brown was the teacher.
“You never know when a civics class is going to lead to your future,” Goralski said at the meeting. “The very class that prompts you all to be here—my teacher is four people away from me, and we sit up here serving our community together.”
When the project is finished, Hart’s class will discuss some of the town’s main initiatives, because most of the students choose local town meetings to attend. In recent years, he had officials come in and speak to the students.
“The project is authentic,” said Hart. “Civics students at Southington High School have been doing this for more than five years now.”
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Jen Cardines, email her at JCardines@SouthingtonObserver.com.