Trottier teachers discuss 8th grade Civic Action Projects

The Civic Action Projects done by eighth grade students at Trottier are state mandated programs intended to “promote and enhance civic engagement”. Since 2018 when they were first implemented, eighth grade civics teachers Paul Basta and Julie Jenks have worked to deliver the best experience for their students.

Currently, Jenks’ classes are in the brainstorming and researching stage of the project. She reflected on the process.

“Although I have lots of ideas, it’s really not about that,” Jenks said. “It’s about students looking for issues in their community and trying to find ways for them to have a positive impact on those around them. It’s really exciting to guide them.”

Basta’s students are in the later stages of the project and have demonstrated the levels of creativity and outreach that the program aims to foster. One of the plans that he told me about was a career-day type of event.

“The kids thought that middle school kids would really like to get a sense of adult careers in the town and community,” Basta said. “They wanted to put together a program [that’s] not just a speaker day, but like a program where parents and other community members could come in and talk about their careers.”

Additionally, Trottier hasn’t had a Home Ec program in a long time.

“A group of kids wanted to bring those life skills back and they would kind of name it as a “life-skills” elective,” Basta said. “It would involve cooking and actually involve bringing in various teachers to teach their favorite recipes and things like that. And cleaning and sewing and all that kind of stuff too. So I thought that was a really good idea. And again, it’s student generated, I wouldn’t even think of that.

Furthermore, the lessons learned from these efforts go above a regular class project.

“The goal is to create a youth that is civically engaged,” Jenks said. “We create the patterns for them now to think about what is happening in their world and recognizing that things could be improved. Hopefully that’s a skill they will take with them whether they settle right here in town when they’re older or they go across the world.”

Basta described seeing a high level of dedication and engagement from students.

“I have two teams meeting with people in town over break about their projects,” Basta said. “I didn’t [tell them to], that was their initiative to go out and do that. They’re spending their own time on spring break going and meeting people.”

It was really great to learn how the program’s objectives are deeply intertwined with community values and efforts, illustrating how these two factors work in harmony to enhance each other’s impact.

“This community is incredibly supportive,” Jenks said. “We are very, very appreciative of the willingness for the community to engage with our students…we really appreciate the level of involvement that the community is willing to bring to this project.”

One instance that illustrated the enduring influence of these initiatives stood out to me, particularly from Jenks’ class last year. She recounted how a team successfully raised the bar for community service requirements at Trottier: two hours for sixth graders, four for seventh graders, and six for eighth graders.

“Those students are now at Algonquin but they left that legacy here at Trottier,” Jenks said. “Because of them and their Civics Action Project, our students are much more engaged then they had been in previous years.”

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