Michelle McKinney took a different approach to the traditional paper-pencil exams most teachers at Meridian give to students. In McKinney’s Current Events class, students pick an issue they care about, a solution they want to try, and break down the solution into smaller steps.
“It is so easy to complain. I want my students to see that they can do more than complain. They can make a positive difference in the world. Some students are doing a fundraiser for their favorite cause,” said Mckinney. “Others are doing education campaigns about vaping or acceptance. Multiple groups are contacting their senators and representatives about issues they feel passionate about or writing letters to the editor. Some are contacting the President of the United States. Others are contacting our superintendent and principals to make changes here in our school district.”
McKinney holds students responsible for proof they have completed each step. Students were allowed to form groups if they wanted or needed to. Every student/group met with McKinney to discuss a fair percentage for each step they would need to complete and who would complete each step.
“I knew I wanted to tie learning activism to the final exam because the final exam is worth 20% of the grade in the class. I wanted the students to understand this is important. It would be easier to have all of the students doing the same topic, but I wanted the students to pick something they believed in passionately,” said McKinney.
McKinney attended a conference to learn how to teach Social Studies in new ways. This is where she learned how to break down a large issue into components and ask students to become activists.
“The advantages are it gives us more time to do it and it’s not focused on the whole group, the individual gets the grade. However, I think that it is more stressful because it’s not then and there, it’s spread out a couple of weeks,” said Tryston Weiss, sophomore.
Weiss is a student who has taken McKinney’s class the whole semester. Weiss and his group’s goal is to improve sex education at Meridian. The group has emailed principals and health teachers from other schools to find out what they do for their programs and will talk to the middle school principal about their topic.
“I was organized the whole time and I was ok, but other people in my class are not as organized so I can see how that would be their downfall,” said Savannah Mendenhall, senior.
Mendenhall has also taken the Current Events class for the semester. Mendenhall and her partner for the assignment raised money for the Blue Mound Fire Department’s Disaster Relief Fund. They conducted a half-court contest and took donations at a basketball game.
“With Current Events, I wanted to teach the students three concepts,” said McKinney “First, I wanted them to learn how to take a large topic and break it down into components such as the causes, effects, proposed solutions, evaluating the solutions, and figuring out who has the power to make the changes. Second, I thought it was important to learn how to have political conversations, not debates, in a calm and respectful manner. Finally, I wanted the students to learn that they could do more than complain. They can actually make a change.”