Wendy Ewbank teaches seventh- and eighth-grade history at the Madrona Middle School in Edmonds, Washington. A small town with a large retirement community, Edmonds is also home to a professional population that commutes to the high-tech industries in nearby Seattle. Edmonds is predominantly Caucasian with a growing Asian population. Madrona Middle School reflects Edmonds's demographics while drawing more diversity from neighboring towns. Each year, 150 students and 25 parent volunteers participate in the school's thriving service learning program by working with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), environmental organizations, a senior center, and local museums.
Ms. Ewbank teaches a multiage class of seventh- and eighth-graders. Because seventh-grade standards cover world regions, and eighth-grade standards cover U.S. history, Ms. Ewbank integrates her curriculum by including both subjects. She began the year with a unit on the post-colonial world, examining world regions and studying the relationships between different countries (for example, how an Italian explorer named Christopher Columbus obtained funding from the king and queen of Spain). From there, students went on to study units on early America up to and including the Constitution and Bill of Rights.
By the time the class began the lesson "Landmark Supreme Court Cases," students had studied the balance of powers among the three branches of government, the impact of court rulings on the law, and the conflict that sometimes arises between preserving individual liberties and protecting the common good. They had a solid understanding of the law and had simulated other town meetings, as in a lesson on the Founding Fathers, for example. Before this simulation, Ms. Ewbank asked students to research Supreme Court cases and share their findings in posters they created. Students conducted additional research once they were assigned specific roles for the press conference and town meeting simulations.
Ms. Ewbank explained to students what she expected of them in terms of their participation in the simulation. She assessed their understanding based on how substantive their contributions were and their ability to think on their feet and stay in character when fielding questions. At the end of the lesson, students were given an essay test on the Constitution and on the Supreme Court cases they had just studied. Ms. Ewbank then connected what students had learned in this lesson to the next unit on immigration, and later to a lesson on civil rights.
Lesson Background >>