Bar News - June 22, 2007
Students Tackle Real-World Community Problems through Project Citizen
By: Anita S. Becker
Eighth-graders from the Cooperative Middle School in Stratham will have their policy portfolio on hunter safety, “If You Can’t Hunt Safely, Don’t Shoot the Game,” viewed by a panel of national judges during the Project Citizen Finals, being held in conjunction with the National Conference of State Legislatures Annual Meeting, August 5-9, in Boston,.
The students were the state champions of the New Hampshire Project Citizen Showcase, held on May 18, 2007, at the Legislative Office Building in Concord. Fourteen judges, consisting of NH Bar members and public officials, evaluated 24 portfolios that were submitted from four middle schools for the state competition.
Participating schools were: Cooperative Middle School; Fairground Middle School, Nashua; Hudson Middle School; and Lisbon Middle School.
“There are a lot of interesting problems chosen and the students have creative ways of addressing them,” said Attorney Marty Honigberg, of Sulloway & Hollis in Concord, who has judged the competition for the past four years.
The New Hampshire Bar Association offers this program, created and funded by the California-based Center for Civic Education, to promote competent and responsible participation in state and local government by teaching students how to monitor and influence public policy in their communities.
As a class project, students work as a group to identify and study public policy issues and develop an action plan for implementing a proposed policy. The final product is a table-top portfolio displaying each group’s work. Three judges were assigned to review and assign points to each one of the portfolios entered into the competition.
Concord Attorney John Laboe, of Laboe Associates, a first-year judge, was impressed with the amount of effort the students put into the displays. “I am surprised at how high the quality of work is for middle-school students. Of the three portfolios I’ve looked at, the amount of research is significant in all of them, and the writing level in some is what you would expect from high school students.”
Sate Rep. Peter B. Schmidt, of Dover, had a committee meeting in the Legislative Office Building, near the room being used to judge the Project Citizen displays. He came in to look around at the students’ work and was quickly pressed into service as a judge. Patty Wooster, former NHBA LRE Coordinator, said, “He was very impressed by what the students had done and stayed around to speak with me about it. I was short-handed on judges and asked him if he would mind judging a portfolio on drinking and driving. He agreed and was very enthusiastic about it.”
Other issues covered by the schools included: cigarette-butt pollution; inadequate school funding; soccer field erosion; school building underutilization; efficient energy use; Internet-use safety; solid waste reduction; girls playing baseball; inadequate arts’ funding; neo-natal care; banning candy cigarettes; Alzheimer’s Disease care; solar panel use; stopping cyber-bullies; stop sign proposal; and drunk-driving prevention.
The NHBA LRE Program, which is funded in part by the NH Bar Foundation, encompasses a variety of programs designed to teach students in grades K-12 about the law, the legal system, and constitutional democracy.
For more information on how you can volunteer for LRE programs, contact Robin Knippers, LRE Coordinator, at 603-715-3259 or email@example.com.