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Maryland Classroom: Fifth Graders’ ‘Congressional Testimony’ is Social Studies Capstone

Melissa Azzarello
Melissa Azzarello, Fifth Grade Teacher, Forest Ridge Elementary, Howard County

Today my fifth grade students are doing something that would intimidate many adults: They are presenting oral testimony in front of a panel of expert judges, as part of Howard County’s Simulated Congressional Hearings program (SCH).

Students assume the roles of Constitutional experts and testify in front of a mock congressional committee made up of local community members, including legislators, government workers, and police officers. The SCH program brings social studies out of the classroom and shows students a real-world application for what they have been learning over the course of the school year.

For teachers, this is really an event where we see students grow and mature.  I am often surprised when students who have been shy and quiet all year, speak loudly and confidently in front of a crowded classroom.  Not only does this event allow students to become Constitutional experts, but also it prepares them for the next steps in their academic careers.  By researching, reading the newspaper, and watching the news, students learn about current events and how they connect to their testimony.  Students must also learn how to effectively work as a team.

SCH culminates our fifth-graders’ year of social studies instruction.  We begin with Colonial America and the American Revolution.  Students use the ideas of our Founding Fathers to understand why our Constitution was needed.  Students receive an education in civics as well, tackling issues such as freedoms of expression, and the rights and responsibilities of citizens.  As teachers, we hope to prepare our students to be active participants in our government and the SCH program provides them with a strong foundation for future civic engagement.