With advance notice most workshops can be offered at an introductory or more advanced level in order to cater to the readiness levels and prior knowledge of participants.
Additionally, all of the workshops outlined below can easily be adapted for educators or community members seeking a presentation grounded in important issues in American society, history and literature.
How Silence Helped Students Speak Out
The freedom of speech is guaranteed by the US Constitution, but that right did not extend to the speech of students in public schools until they began to participate in the Civil Rights Movement. The context of civil unrest and social change provides the backdrop for participants to explore the stories of American students, ages 14-17, who were disciplined for their expressive activities and whose experiences created new rights and protections for student voice in the school and classroom. Students will develop an understanding of what constitutes “speech,” as they interact with one another to test the limits of what constitutes student free speech in America.
What Else Happens in School Besides Academics?
Certainly, American students learn academics in school, but what else do they do? This interactive workshop presents an overview of a typical school day for 13-15 year old students, but goes beyond instruction to the activities in which they engage during and after school, such as athletics, clubs, student councils, sports, service activities, and more.
Religion and Cultural Conflict
The freedom to practice one’s religion is one of the key principles that led to the establishment of America and that freedom is embedded in its founding documents. Yet, the expression of one’s religious belief remains a contested societal matter, particularly in public schools where students from many ethnic and religious traditions learn together. Participants in this interactive workshop will define religion, briefly review the history of religion in American society and how government must remain neutral toward religion, and examine how the diversity of students’ religious beliefs has instigated cultural clashes in schools over pressing social issues. Students will explore the constitutional constraints on religious influence in schools and will apply the concept of religious neutrality to scenarios in which students have been challenged for expressing their religious beliefs in school.
Mobile Phones, Backpacks, and Student Privacy in Public Schools
Mobile phones are often a person’s most frequently used possession. Many students use their mobile devices to photograph their worlds, and to share their lives one another through Twitter, Snapchat, Slack, Instagram and other apps. Mobile phones can also be a tool to bully and harass others. Although Americans have the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures of their property, there are instances in which their privacy rights have been compromised in order to prevent harm, such as cyberbullying. Students in this interactive workshop will learn about the US Constitution’s Fourth Amendment, and will apply their knowledge to a variety of situations in which students were subject to searches of their mobile phones, backpacks, and bodies.
Race Segregation in American Schools
Law in the American South required that children were to be segregated by race in schools. There were two systems of education: one was for Caucasian students, the other was for all students of color, e.g., Black, Asian, Native American, and others. These schools were deemed separate but equal until the US Supreme Court held that such segregation was inherently unequal and must be ended. Yet today, many schools look segregated because a majority of minority students attend these schools. Are these schools re-segregated? Are they separate and unequal?” This interactive workshop builds on the history of race segregation in schools to challenge students to explore the nature of equality, and to propose practices to improve the educational experience for all students.
Immigration and the Right to a Public Education
American schools have a responsibility to educate all children, including those who do not speak English and those who have not entered the country legally. While their parents are subject to deportation for illegal entry, the children are entitled to a free public education. This interactive workshop uses the context of schooling to explore the confusing social tensions over issues of legal and illegal immigration and the rights of the child.