Archive for Thursday, July 23, 2009

Government teacher learns at the source

July 23, 2009

De Soto High School government teacher Mike Runyan got a head start on lesson planning for the upcoming school year after a trip to Washington, D.C.

Runyan was one of 26 social studies teachers from Kansas, Texas and Pennsylvania to take part in the three-day trip July 14 to 16.

The Bill of Rights Institute sponsored trip covered airfare and expenses of the trip, Runyan said. However, Runyan and his family drove to the nation’s capital.

The institute focuses on educating people about the word and ideas of America’s founding through documents and principles.

The trip focused primarily on four founding fathers, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and George Mason.

Through the program Runyan explored the grounds of George Washington’s Mount Vernon home, George Mason’s Gunston Hall and the National Archives.

“It was kind of an early American history, development of the Constitution and specifically the Bill of Rights and the framers surrounding that,” he said.

A wide variety of activities comprised the trip.

“There were the tourism things like going around to all the monuments,” he said. “Then visits to Mt. Vernon and Gunston Hall.”

Runyan said he will use much of what he learned on the trip in the classroom as he begins his eleventh year at DHS in the fall.

“Well, one activity we are required to do is turn in a lesson to the institute,” he said. “I’m going to have students compare the Bill of Rights for individual states at the time to our Constitution’s Bill of Rights.”

The wealth of resources available at the National Archive will come in handy in classroom, as well.

“They have an amazing amount of stuff,” he said. “They taught us how to find stuff. I’ll share that with the whole history department.”

Runyan said the content of the program was interesting from a government standpoint.

“To view the actual Articles of Confederation when they were out. They said it was the only time they’ve been displayed and won’t be again in our lifetime. That was special to get to see.”

Early in the spring Runyan received an email about the trip after attending several Bill of Rights seminars in the past.

“They just emailed asking if any Kansas teachers would be interested in the trip. They’ve usually been local seminars,” he said. “Some have covered specific aspects of the Bill of Rights like freedom or speech, the Fourth Amendment, the Fourteenth Amendment. It’s really nice they bring in a college professor to talk about the topics. They also teach how to apply the content, they keep you up to date on research.”

Runyan said all the activities and tours the group participated in are available to the public. However, by attending with the group he was able to receive private tours, bypassing lines.

Unfortunately, his family wasn’t as lucky. His wife and children spent most of their time sight-seeing while Runyan was with the group.

“We met up one day on the National Mall when the group got done early,” he said. “We finished at 3 p.m. and had three hours before dinner, so we ended up going to Arlington Cemetery.”

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