BURLINGTON, Vt., Nov. 8 – More than 100 students from four Vermont high schools traveled to the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate on Wednesday as part of the first “Vermont Day” to learn about democracy, civic discourse and the legislative process.
The trip, organized by U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), enabled Vermont students to travel to the Kennedy Institute, which is located on the campus of the University of Massachusetts in Boston. Students from Poultney High School, Twinfield Union School, West Rutland School and Woodstock High School participated.
The Vermont students took on the role of a senator for a day in a full-scale replica of the U.S. Senate chamber. The immersive experience includes researching public policy, introducing and debating legislation and working together to reach consensus.
“At a time when many people feel alienated from the political process, and when voter participation is dangerously low, it is vitally important that we engage our youth to prepare them to be critical thinkers and future leaders,” Sanders said. “This trip is a small, but important step for Vermont students to do just that.”
Terri Vest, who teaches at Twinfield Union School said, “Students in small, rural schools sometimes don't have an opportunity to have this type of experience. By creating a ‘Vermont Day’ for us, Senator Sanders has given my students the opportunity to engage with students from other schools. Learning about government and how it works is a critical part of our curriculum and has become more important as politics in America have become so divisive. This adventure in learning provides the opportunity for them to understand how complex lawmaking really is and how compromise is at the core of effective government.”
Matt Olewnik, a social studies teacher at West Rutland School, said, “Our Vermont schools are moving curriculum toward a student-centered model, where learning is blended, authentic, and student and inquiry driven. Immersive experiences like this fit nicely into that model.”
Sanders, who serves on the Senate education committee, gave the keynote speech at the Kennedy Institute’s first anniversary last year. “I was very impressed with the hands-on civics taught to visiting students and I discussed with the president of the Institute the possibility of organizing Vermont high school students to come down to participate in the innovative programming they have to offer,” Sanders said, explaining the origins of “Vermont Day.”
The bipartisan Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate “is dedicated to educating the public about the important role of the Senate in our government, encouraging participatory democracy, invigorating civil discourse, and inspiring the next generation of citizens and leaders to engage in the civic life of their communities,” according to its website.
Sanders is organizing another trip to the Kennedy Institute for Vermont students in March 2018. Schools and students that are interested in participating can contact his Burlington office at 1-800-339-9834.
To view pictures from "Vermont Day," click here.
Contact: Dan McLean, 802-862-6695