Gov students bring lessons to Foothill Elementary School

April 30, 2008 — by Tim Tsai

Senior Niamh McGinley teaches students at Foothill Elementary School.

It isn’t often that students become the teachers, but the students of history teacher Mike Davey’s U.S. Government classes had the chance to play the role on April 18 and 25 at Foothill Elementary.

The classes traveled to Foothill to give presentations on what it means to be an American and on the freedom of speech. Some students performed educational skits and gave PowerPoint presentations, while others split the elementary students into groups and had them argue landmark cases throughout American history.

“My class focused on the freedom of speech,” said senior Aaditya Sekar. “The fifth graders had just done a unit on the American Revolution and the development of the Constitution, and while they had not studied court cases as in-depth as we have, they had a pretty broad understanding of what we taught them.”

The idea of teaching fifth-graders at Foothill came from Davey.

“Having my daughter at Foothill, I had a better idea of the curriculum there,” said Davey. “First semester, we had a project where we looked at what it meant to be American, and Foothill had just finished a unit on the ideas of the Founding Fathers, so I called Foothill and had both classes come up with ideas of being American.”

One class of U.S. Government students and elementary students looked at the freedom of speech and tackled controversial issues, such as whether Harry Potter books are allowed to be banned and whether one can burn the American flag. Another group of students previously visited Foothill on April 18 to talk about American ideals. Today, a third group will go to talk about freedom of religion.

At first, Davey’s students had concerns about whether the elementary students would be able to understand what the high school students were teaching them.

“Many of the fifth graders can only see things in black and white,” said senior Sruthi Swami. “It just takes time to explain the information
to them.”

Also, the students were interested in how complex issues would be perceived by the fifth graders.

“At a high school level, everyone has intellectual arguments, but if you go to a fifth-grade level, you are dealing with very fundamental thoughts,” said Sekar.

“We are looking to see how someone who has not done extensive research will react to these issues.”

One of the biggest benefits of the program was the chance for students to teach material they have learned.

“There are so many positives of having a 12th grader teach a fifth grader because you learn the material better as you teach it, and it’s good to see them give back to the education system,” said Davey.