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11/14/2012 3:41:00 PM Email this articlePrint this article 
Photo by Kacie Thrift
On Nov. 1, the sixth grade students held a mock congressional hearing to end their unit on the U.S. Constitution. Left, Huber Farias, Kylie Michael, Thadeus McRae, and Madison Schoening sit next to their group member Dylan Thomason while he gives a speech to the judges about the U.S. Constitution.
Cashmere sixth graders hold mock Congressional hearing
Kacie Thrift
Staff Writer

The Cashmere Middle School sixth graders held their eighth annual mock congressional hearing on Nov. 1 with legislators Mike Armstrong, Carey Condotta, and Linda Evans-Parlette Executive Assistant Shiloh Schauer, who were judging the students and asking questions.

Sixth grade reading and social studies teachers Don Smith and Rose Shook have been putting on a mock congressional hearing for the sixth grade class for the past eight years. Smith said the two teachers though it was a good idea because it meets many of the new common core standards.

"The kids are applying the knowledge they have gained," Smith said.

Over the first quarter, students have learned about the constitution, and instead of taking a test on the material, Smith and Shook use the mock congressional hearing to have the kids apply the knowledge they gained in the curriculum.

"Basically we split the book we use for this curriculum into five units. We studied the different units and then for the last two weeks, the kids were split into groups and made responsible for one of the units," Smith said.

Each student prepared a speech for a question asked by Armstrong, Condotta, or Schauer. After each student in a group answered a specific question, the judges presented open questions. The students had not prepared a specific answer but had learned over the course of the unit how to answer the questions while giving answers using their own beliefs.

One of the questions Armstrong asked the students was how did the framers use separation of powers and checks and balances to limit the powers of government.

Sixth grader Jose Lima answered, "The framers used separation of powers and check and balances to restrict the powers of government. Separation of powers means to divide the powers among the branches, checks means each branch can stop the other branches from making prior decisions before taking certain action, and balances means that no one government branch is given so much power that it can control the other branches."

Huber Farias gave definitions of legislative branch, executive branch, and judicial branch. He then said he believes the framers are right and they limited the powers of government so the United States government isn't too powerful today.

Condotta asked to hear about some examples of the checks and balances that work today.

Sixth grade student Kylie Michael said the government checks and balances how much power people have today by splitting Congress into two houses, the Senate and the House of Representatives.

"They do this so they can check each others power. If one has more power than the other they can take over the United States today. If a bill makes it to the President and the President says no it goes back to Congress and Congress makes a vote. If most of them vote yes then it becomes a law, but if the president already said yes than it's already a law," Michael said. "I am glad that we have ways to check and balance our government today."

After each student in the group answered a specific question from the judges, the judges asked open questions. Any student in the group presenting could answer these questions.

For example, Schauer asked one group what keeps the president from becoming too powerful. Student Madison Shoening said what keeps the president from being too powerful is when he vetoes a bill it goes back to Congress so it can still become a law.

While the students gave their answers the judges gave the students scores on six different categories including an understanding of the topic, constitutional application, and supporting evidence in the answers. Smith said the program started eight years ago when the United States Department of Education Center for Civic Education gave a grant to provide a free curriculum to schools to assist them with holding mock congressional hearings.

"I think any time you have to talk about the knowledge and apply it, you have to take what you learn and be put on spotlight it makes you have a deeper understanding of the content," Smith said. "I relate it to kids involved in sports. They practice and practice and then comes game time. You have to take all your practice and apply it. This is the game situation. We practiced, we learned, we studied and this was their chance to demonstrate to everybody."

Kacie Thrift may be reached at 78-3781 or

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