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MARQUETTE - A team of 23 MSHS students is headed for the 30th annual We the People National Finals competition in Washington, D.C. after finishing second at the State Finals in Lansing in January and receiving a wildcard spot in the national tournament.
Marquette has become a fixture at the We the People State Finals, finishing in the top three five of the last six years. This will be their first trip to the National Finals though, in fact they will be the first Michigan team from north of Grand Rapids to compete at the National Finals.
“I am very proud of these students,” said their teacher and coach, Fred Cole, an MSHS Social Studies teacher. “Michigan is usually a Top 10 team at Nationals, so this is quite an accomplishment. We are very excited to represent Michigan and the U.P. The students have a huge challenge in front of them, but they are excited to take it on. And we really appreciate all the support we have received from the Marquette community. “
While in Washington, D.C., students will also be able explore our nation's capital, learn about government beyond the classroom walls. They will tour the U.S. Capitol, the Supreme Court buildings, the monuments and the National Mall, the National Archives, the Holocaust Museum, Mount Vernon, and the Smithsonian complex.
The students, their families, and the entire community raised the funds for this trip in just 8 weeks. “We are very grateful for the support we received from individual donors, businesses, service clubs, and local foundations. We would not be able to go to this competition without the wonderful support from the community.” said Mr. Cole.
During the National Finals students participate in simulated congressional hearings. Students testify as constitutional experts before panels of judges acting as congressional committees scoring the groups through a performance-based assessment. Each class is divided into six groups based on the six units of the We the People: The Citizen & the Constitution high school textbook.
Each hearing begins with a four-minute prepared opening statement by students and is followed by a six-minute period of follow-up questioning during which a panel of judges probe students' depth of knowledge, understanding, and their ability to apply constitutional principles to current and historic examples.
During the six-minute follow up period, the students are completely on their own – no notes or other materials are allowed. The format provides students an excellent opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge and understanding of constitutional principles.
"We the People is one of the best learning experiences I have ever undertaken with students in my 26 years of teaching,” said Mr. Cole. Students over the years have made comments like, 'I have learned more from this competition than I would in a whole year of a class.'”