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K-State Today

September 6, 2016

U.S. Constitution subject of online course, summer institute for high school teachers

Submitted by Patrice Scott

Twenty-five social studies and history teachers who attended a statewide institute are continuing their professional development experience through an online course taught by two faculty members in the College of Education.

Thomas Vontz, professor of curriculum and instruction, and Brad Burenheide, associate professor of curriculum and instruction, are teaching EDCI 786: Teaching about Constitutional Government through Kansas State University's Center for Social Studies Education to further enhance the teachers' understanding of the U.S. Constitution.

The course supplements the We the People Summer Institute in Topeka, which explored historical, legal and social perspectives of the Constitution — the origins of constitutional ideas, their development throughout history and their meaning in our world today. The summer institute was directed by Vontz and Burenheide, and the institute received funding from the U.S. Department of Education and the Johnson County First Amendment Foundation.

Vontz praised the participating teachers.

"They are a top-shelf set of teachers — smart, curious and engaged," Vontz said. "We suspect this is going to be a big boost for Kansas We the People."

Called the Kansas James Madison Legacy Summer Institute, the institute featured presentations by John J. Patrick, professor emeritus at Indiana University and an internationally renowned civic educator; Stephen Schechter, professor of political science and history at Russell Sage College and editor of the Encyclopedia of American Governance; and Mark Graber, Jacob A. France professor of constitutionalism at the University of Maryland and one of America's leading experts on constitutional law.

The teachers were presented curriculum from the national Center for Civic Education's We the People program, which annually hosts state and national civics education competition for middle and high school classes. Topics at the Topeka Institute included "Thinking Constitutionally," "The Philosophical and Historical Foundations of the American Political System," "Overview of a Congressional Hearing," "How Did the Framers Create the Constitution?," "Using We the People in the Classroom," "Hearing Preparation," and "How Has the Constitution Been Changed to Further the Ideals Contained in the Declaration of Independence?" The institute concluded with a panel discussion by We the People alumni.

For more information about the We the People program, contact Vontz at tvontz@k-state.edu