Diane Kerr teaches fourth-grade social studies at Butcher Greene Elementary School in Grandview, Missouri. A suburb on the south side of Kansas City, Grandview is the former home of President Harry Truman. Grandview is still largely residential, providing much of the affordable housing for people transitioning out of the inner city. Its ethnically diverse population is roughly 65 percent African American, 25 percent Caucasian, and 10 percent Hispanic. Most residents work in local manufacturing, retail, or service industries. Many of the students at Butcher Greene Elementary live in nearby subsidized housing, moving and sometimes changing schools multiple times over the course of the school year.
Ms. Kerr began the year with a unit on world geography to help students understand where they lived in relation to other world regions and to develop their geography vocabulary and map skills. This unit also introduced students to the notion of themselves as global citizens. In the next unit, Ms. Kerr narrowed the focus to U.S. regions, ending with the Midwest and, finally, Missouri. The chronological study of Missouri history began with the region's Native Americans and early explorers and progressed to the Missouri Compromise, the Civil War, and significant events in the state's economic, political, and agricultural history throughout the twentieth century.
The lesson shown in "State Government and the Role of the Citizen" fell within the unit on Missouri state government. By the time the class began the lesson, Ms. Kerr wanted students to understand the geography of world and U.S. regions. She also wanted them to understand how Missouri became a state and the context in which its government was created. This rich history provided a foundation for understanding the historical and current role of the citizen.
The lesson also covered how state laws are made. To illustrate how a bill becomes a law, students brainstormed a list of their own civic concerns, and identified the people and steps involved in the lawmaking process, from proposing a bill to ratifying legislation. They drew pictures and wrote out the steps in flip books they created. The lesson culminated in a letter to their state representative, Kathy Jolley, outlining their concerns: the legalization of fireworks, lockers for elementary students, and stronger drug laws, among others. After the lesson, Representative Jolley visited the class to discuss the students' concerns and talk about different legislative processes in Missouri's state government.
This lesson on the role of the citizen segued into a unit on famous Missourians and their civic contributions. The final unit of the year focused on Missouri's future and drew from what the class had already learned about Missouri's past and present.
Lesson Background >>