DC and VA Civics Teachers Convene for Professional Development Seminar


On June 29-July 2, Virginia and Washington, D.C. teachers will convene at the Robert H. Smith Center for the Constitution at James Madison’s Montpelier to learn about the nationally acclaimed civics education program, We the People. We the People, a nonpartisan curriculum developed by the Center for Civic Education, promotes civic competence and responsibility by helping students understand the history and principles of the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights. The program is available to elementary, middle and high school students throughout the country.

As the program’s host in Virginia and Washington, D.C., the Center for the Constitution offers free professional development seminars to teachers who wish to use the curriculum. This year’s session will be led by University of Richmond Professor of Law Henry L. Chambers, Jr., and supplemented with lesson demonstrations about how to best implement the curriculum from experienced We the People teachers, who serve as program mentors. “The We The People Summer Institute at Montpelier is great fun,” said Chambers. “Without the pressure of thinking about tomorrow’s lesson plan, we can sit back, learn from each other and push each other to a higher level of understanding about the Constitution that can later be applied inside the classroom.”

The We the People curriculum provides a platform for teachers to lead their students on an in-depth exploration and analysis of the structure, function and operations of constitutional government. Upon completion of the curriculum, all teachers are encouraged to involve their students in a simulated congressional hearing. Working in cooperative teams, students prepare statements in response to a given question and present them to panels of community representatives that include judges, attorneys, legislators and college professors, who act as congressional committee members. Participating classes convene for regional and state competitions, vying for a spot to contend in the national finals held on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.

“The We the People program is transformative. It allows students to understand the Constitution more thoroughly, and most of my students have found it to be—quite honestly—a lot of fun,” said David Sahr, a program mentor and teacher of American Government at National Cathedral School in Washington, D.C. “Most importantly, it provides an active classroom activity that is engaging to children. As opposed to a passive lecture or a reading assignment, the congressional committee hearing format is challenging and engaging.”

In 2003, The Montpelier Foundation took on sponsorship of the We the People program in Virginia and Washington, D.C. as part of its initiative to elevate civic awareness and engagement among America’s youth. Since adopting the program, The Foundation has served nearly 8,000 students. More than 28 million students and 75,000 educators have participated in We the People nationwide. Read more about the competition here.

Caroline Godfrey