Even though they have great importance, teaching lessons on local government can be a challenge for many teachers, especially to student populations that are not proportionately represented in most traditional governments. Research has highlighted that students begin significantly forming their self-conception relating to their role in government as early as the age of 9 (McGuire & Cole, 85). In addition, many students in the classroom given their family background and socioeconomic status do not have the same connections and buy-in to positions of leadership in government that other students might with higher income backgrounds. Given the challenge of making government relevant to all learners, a teaching approach known as Storypath has emerged to engage particularly middle-school aged students and younger in learning. Storypath is a specific narrative-centered, inquiry-based teaching approach and effectively helps empower students to take an active role in learning about government. Students create characters in a community and are eventually assigned roles to represent these characters in local government scenarios (88). Teachers play an intentional and key role in facilitating the learning experience in an inquiry-based approach like Storypath. Overall, I learned through the reading that not only do they need to help establish and clarify roles as students learn the setup, but still intentionally associate vocabulary and concepts with the role-playing scenario to help bind the understanding together in student’s minds and experiences (89.)
I specifically chose this article because my focus for my unit planning in Assignment Two is on teaching sixth graders the basics of local government. I knew that I wanted to engage them in a role-playing, problem-based scenario, but wasn’t sure exactly how to go about setting the lesson sequence up. As a result, I researched articles about teaching local government to younger students in problem-based centered approaches and this one seemed to provide the most insight and help. Specific takeaways for me include the importance of getting student buy-in through creating avenues for their own unique and spontaneous creativity in creating community members that have lives they imagine. Another exciting highlight of the article was its uplift of a young man in the classroom who in spite of not fitting in socially with his classmates often, found uplift and support for his ideas in Storypath. He suggested the importance of having a humane society center in the community and was well received, to the point of everyone wanting him to be mayor. I appreciate that with Storypath, in addition to students being invested in discovering the importance of civic engagement through their own creations, students who traditionally struggle with having a voice can become uplifted and socially engaged.
McGuire, M.E. and Cole, B. (2008). Using the storypath approach to make local government understandable. The Social Studies, March/April. p 85-90.