LEGISLATIVE PAGE SCHOOL SYLLABUS
As students arrive at the Page School, the focus of the day is introduced through a journal entry. Pages take ten minutes to brainstorm and record their thoughts. This is followed by a discussion that transitions into the lesson.
Ex. Please analyze and discuss the following quote: "We may disagree on some things, but we can do so without being disagreeable."
- Where have you seen this on campus and what did it look like?
- Describe specific behaviors you can use to further this idea.
- How can you apply this to a debate? Your everyday life?
Many of the words and phrases pertaining to the Washington State government are new to the pages or rarely used by them prior to their week in the Capitol. The Page School highlights over 25 of these words using technology, art and application. The words are broken down by day, with each connecting to a specific lesson.
Ex. Sine Die – The final day of the legislative session
Every Wednesday during session, the school hosts between two and four guest speakers. These speakers represent many of the different positions in state government including Supreme Court Justices, Senators and Representatives, Executive branch agency heads, and various staff members. Occasionally, a Congressional Representative will visit the program if it fits their schedule. Each 30-minute session is different, as most of the time is devoted to a question-and-answer format with the pages leading the discussion. These visits are very inspiring and informative. Through this experience, pages come away with an increased awareness of the accessibility of government, and a better understanding of the passion that many of our civil servants possess for their positions. Another benefit is exposure to different employment opportunities.
HOW A BILL BECOMES A LAW ACTIVITIES
*WHAT MAKES A GOOD LAW?
Done on the first day of class, the Page School designed this activity to help view current issues from alternate perspectives. Pages are split into groups, with each cluster receiving a different Washington State law to analyze. Their task is to create a T-chart. On one side of the chart they list the reasons people support this law and its benefits, and on the other side why people oppose it and the potential negative impacts. The emphasis of the activity is not to focus on one's own opinion, but rather to understand how others may think or feel. The pages share their results with the class. Consistent issues are highlighted by recording the results on a class-wide T-chart.
Ex. Personal choice, safety of the greater good, challenges of enforcement, etc. Past topics have included safety belts, immunization, recreational marijuana, and cell phone use in cars.
*BILLS: THE BASICS
This activity is designed to help pages understand the basic structure of a bill. It is helpful because when they are delivering copies of proposed legislation on the House or Senate floor, they are able to understand what is being debated. It also provides an explanation of the intricacies of bill structure, such as format, language, and aesthetics.
*LEGISLATIVE FLOW CHART
Pages will receive nine cutout squares of paper, with each slip defining a different hurdle that each bill must pass in the process of becoming a law. In addition, a handout explaining the legislative process is distributed. In groups, pages use the reading to align the cutout squares in the proper order and glue them on a separate sheet of paper creating a flow chart.
*BILL WRITING PROJECT
The capstone project of the Page School curriculum is bill writing, and mock committee hearings. In groups of two or three, pages chose from a list of pre-selected topics to write their bills on. They are given a packet of articles and information pertinent to their topic. Each packet contains six to ten documents that are researched and found to be unbiased, reliable, age appropriate, contemporary, and represent a variety of perspectives on complicated problems in Washington State. With the state and the country's ever-changing laws and problems, these research packets and topics are constantly evolving.
After researching their topic and completing an outline, pages use a template created to simulate the structure, language, and optics of an actual bill. The bill is broken into two sections. The first section explains the problem and provides supporting evidence. The second defines the solution and cost, as well as any possible positive impacts.
Once completed, pages present these bills to a committee of their peers in an actual House or Senate hearing room. After sharing their ideas, a debate on the proposed idea's merit ensues using Parliamentary Procedure. The pages then vote upon the bills, and they repeat process until all have shared. Tvw.org, the channel devoted to Washington State Government, streams these mock committees live and archives them on their website.
The final assignment in Page School is a brief essay that will be sent to an educator of the page's choosing. They also take a copy home to their parent/guardian. Selecting from the major themes of the week, each page writes a 300+-word mini-essay integrating an experience they had while on campus to their chosen prompt.
Government affects our lives every day.
Governing society is a complex process.
Successful democracies rely on responsible citizens.
Throughout the week, pages engage in various activities that require them to display civility. In class activities include debating for & against arguments on potentially contentious topics, various journal entries encompassing civility and displaying civil behavior during the mock committee hearings towards the end of the week.
The enrichment activities lend a layer of flexibility to the program. As technology has evolved and replaced many of the traditional page duties, the workload has diminished. Specific weeks, like cutoff or the end of session, still carry a large workload. Other weeks, there may be less for the students to do. The Page School created alternate, out-of-class activities to supplement downtime with learning opportunities.
*ATTEND A COMMITTEE HEARING
Committees play a major role in the process of lawmaking and are one of the most accessible forms of participation. After learning how to search for specific topics and committees, pages attend a live hearing. A worksheet allows for reflection, and an area for clarifying questions has fostered some great classroom discussions.
*ATTEND A SUPREMEM COURT CASE
The Temple of Justice is located on campus. During many weeks of session, the Supreme Court is hearing cases. Since the complexity of the issues can be overwhelming, each case will be summarized before the hearing, and a supervisor or teacher attends to help explain the process. The assignment linked to this activity asks them to compare and contrast their views on court proceedings before and after attending oral arguments.
The scavenger hunt is completed early in the week. Pages explore the campus in small groups visiting many of the key areas on the Capitol grounds. It can serve as an icebreaker to make new friends, and helps to familiarize pages with their surroundings. Prior to the start of the session, the teachers brainstorm with each of the major offices on campus to highlight the history and importance of various locations to be visited.
*MINI FIELD TRIPS
Pages have the opportunity to go on two field trips during the week. Early on in the week, State Treasurer Duane Davidson hosts the Page School for a meet and greet in his office. Afterwards, they get to take a look at the innards of the building to thee the State Treasurer's 20-ton vault!
Later in the week, the Supreme Court opens their doors to the pages for an explanation of the Washington State Court system. After a Q&A, pagers are given a tour of the courtroom and then the deliberation chambers, which are not accessible to the public.
Using a software program and functioning buzzers, pages simulate the classic Jeopardy! game with a legislative twist. Students are split into groups and work as a team to answer review questions from throughout the week.
*PATH TO LEGISLATION PROJECT
The Path to Legislation Project allows pages to share their creativity and utilize some of their outstanding abilities. The task is to explain the process of how a bill becomes a law in Washington State using any medium they desire. Some projects have included poetry, murals, short stories, raps, comic strips, and interpretive dances, but are by no means limited to these categories. Pages work individually or in groups to create and present this activity at the end of each week with the best project earning the much desired 'Leggy Award' which is shared on social media.