Patrick McGravey, head of the social studies department at North Andover Middle School, was recently awarded the 2015 C-SPAN Teaching Fellowship, an honor presented to just three educators across the nation.
C-SPAN’s Fellowship program recognizes educators who demonstrate successful methods of integrating C-SPAN’s civics programs into their classrooms. For four weeks during the summer, McGravey will collaborate with C-SPAN’s education department in Washington D.C. to develop new teaching materials with the network.
McGravey was recognized on May 29 for his achievement by State Representative Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen), who presented him with a congratulatory citation from the Massachusetts House of Representatives. McGravey and student Kaitlyn Parks invited DiZoglio to North Andover Middle School as the latest stop on her Civic Education Tour to engage and educate students across the Merrimack Valley.
The civic education program, which the Representative has brought to schools in North Andover, Methuen, Lawrence and Haverhill, covered the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government and, through interactive exercises, was designed to educate students about what it means to be a citizen and how to be active in the democratic process.
During the event, students participated in mock legislative and judicial hearings, the latter featuring Lawrence District Court Judges Lynn C. Rooney and Mark A. Sullivan and Michael J. Ryan of the Office of Jury Commissioner for the Commonwealth.
“This was an amazing opportunity for the students to apply what they’re learning to real life situations,” said McGravey. “Social studies can sometimes be a boring subject, but Diana and the team really brought it alive to the kids and made them realize they need to know civics and how to apply them in real life. I would love to do this program again and recommend it to any educator in the Commonwealth.”
“We thought it would be more interesting and relevant to use a real-world example to illustrate the work judges do, and how the rule of law works in a democracy,” said Judge Rooney, who had the students divide into juries, deliberate on a case, and render verdicts to illustrate the workings of a criminal jury trial and the importance of the presumption of innocence.
“The kids seemed genuinely enthused and engaged to be involved in the process,” said Judge Sullivan. “It’s our hope that these students will appreciate how important civic duty is and how each member of the community can contribute to ensure the fairness and equality of our criminal justice system. If what we did today helped spark that interest and commitment, it would be great.”
“I was honored to join Mr. McGravey, Judges Rooney and Sullivan and so many talented students from North Andover Middle School as I spoke about how ideas become laws and engaged the students in an interactive mock committee hearing,” said DiZoglio. “All too often, our classrooms lack a strong civic learning program that educates students about what state government does in our daily lives. Mr. McGravey should be commended for his focus on civics at North Andover Middle School and I wish him all the best with his fellowship in D.C. this summer.”
“It is critical for students to have an understanding of our judicial system early on, given they should be prepared to serve jury duty as soon as high school,” said Ryan.
“It was an amazing day and such a great opportunity to have Representative DiZoglio come and speak to us,” said student Kaitlyn Parks. “She was so friendly and personable and the students really enjoyed it.”
“It was a fun day and I liked to see that the speakers were doing things that we learned in class,” said student Alexa Pascucci. “I liked the jury duty speaker, Michael J. Ryan, who played a game with us with prizes and had some funny jokes.”
“Although not all of the kids on our team could attend because of a band field trip, I think that the kids who did thoroughly enjoyed it including myself,” said student Madelyn Reveal. “All of the speakers were both entertaining and educational to us.”
In today’s high schools, civic education is often only offered toward the end of a student’s studies, in twelfth grade. On the latest national civics assessment, administered in 2006 by the National Assessment Governing Board, two-thirds of students scored below “proficient.” In 2010, more than one quarter of college students reported they did not register to vote because they did not know where or how to do so.
In the current legislative session, DiZoglio has filed several bills pertaining to civic education: one requires the department of elementary and secondary education to develop a model civic education curriculum to be included within history curriculum; another requires registrars to inform high school students about their right to vote, how the registration process works and also provide them access to registration forms; and a third bill would require public schools to better-publicize where students may pick up voter registration forms.
In addition to the North Andover Middle School, DiZoglio has thus far visited North Andover High School, Methuen High School, Lawrence High School, Haverhill’s Hunking Middle School and Lawrence’s South East Middle School and Wetherbee School on her Civic Education Tour.