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Sunday, February 19, 2012

Sign the Petition Please!

Bringing about change isn't easy.  Often a lot of leg work is involved and when that leg work is being done by a 10 year old it may seem even more daunting.

Background Information: It was a school tradition for over 18 years that the entire fourth grade participated in a Shakespearean play.  Last year, due to many different factors, the fourth grade team decided to try something different.  This change was met with mixed emotions (as change often does).

Current Situation: As we make our way towards the end of the school year, one of my students started discussing the "Fourth Grade Play" with her sister (who had been in a production of "Julius Caesar" several years before).  It seems that my student wanted to "Bring back the Fourth Grade Play".  Her sister suggested she start a petition.

The petition was then created and over a several day period the student collected over 84 signatures.  Fourth graders, third and fifth graders alike signed their names to the document.  (Even a staff member signed the petition.)  The day finally came when my student asked if she could present the paper to the principal.  I asked her to write our principal a letter stating what she was hoping to accomplish and attach it to the petition.  She did so and brought the letter and petition to the office.

The Discussion:  She came back with her hand over her heart saying "I'm so sick to my stomach, I can hardly breathe!"  It seems that she was worried that she was going to get in trouble for organizing this action.  She stated that some kids even erased their name from the petition for fear of being reprimanded. 

After calming down my student, we spoke about how this was a wonderful way to exercise her 'right to petition'.  Since we had just learned about Martin Luther King, connections of using peaceful methods to bring about change were made.  I assured her that she and her friends were not going to get in trouble and that this is how people bring about change in government and other areas.

The Outcome: Sometimes, even with a petition, the change we hope to bring about doesn't necessarily happen. This was to be the case for my fourth grader and her friends.  However, what DID happen was that the principal came to each fourth grade classroom and told the students how impressed and proud he was of their efforts.  He also explained how students shouldn't be afraid to make their voices heard and that they shouldn't be afraid to stand up for what they believe.

Even though the kids didn't receive the outcome they wanted, I think they were satisfied that their endeavor was taken seriously and proud of themselves for trying.

On Another Note:  In June these fourth grade students will participate in an activity called "Night at the Museum".  Students will research an historical figure and write a script about the life of that figure from their point of view.  They will wear a costume and perform their script.  It's a magical evening for students and their families.

Whether it's a Shakespearean play or a Night at the Museum the students will be afforded an opportunity to learn through drama and participate in an activity that they will remember for years to come.

Right to Petition the Government: From Learning to Give which has "resources that teach giving and civic engagement".

How to Write a Petition: This site provides information on "identifying your target, proper research, clear communication and how you will promote your petition."

Online Petition:  Start your petition online for free.

Why Use Drama in Education: states and gives examples how "drama accomplishes many educational goals."

Have your students created petitions?  What was the outcome?  How have you guided them in their efforts?  Please share your experiences in the comment section.


  1. What a great experience for your class! I'm sure this would have helped them understand their rights and responsibilities as members of the school and the community. A great authentic learning experience.

    I hope to hear about the Night at the Museum later in the year. What a great way to involve so many different skills, performing, research and orgainising.

    Thank you for sharing.


  2. Hi Kylie,
    Thank you for commenting. I will surely write about "Night at the Museum". It was a change for me, doing something other than Shakespeare, but it was wonderful to see the kids come to life as someone else. I think what I liked most is that the kids wrote their own scripts. They truly had a hand in making those characters come to life.

    Thanks again for taking the time to comment.

  3. Hi Nancy,

    I absolutely love that you shared this with us! What a great experience for them to learn from. I'm so glad your principal spoke to each class with praise.

    I also like the Night at the Museum event. Very fun! If they really want to learn something about script writing, there is a great site with curriculum created by Dr. Lin Wright. I had the privilege of piloting some of her curriculum. She is retired, but was the head of the Drama Dept. at ASU.

    Kind regards,

  4. Hi Tracy,
    I think the principal coming to speak with the students was the best part of it. He made them feel great about their efforts - he used a great analogy too about ice cream.

    Night at the Museum was a change for me. What I like about it is that the kids have an equal chance to shine and the chance to write their own script. I will definitely check out your resource as I would like to know more about script writing.

    Thanks again for taking the time to comment.

  5. Nancy,
    I am so touched by reading this, I am tearing up! How proud you must be of your students and the principal too. I am just tickled that they thought to gather signatures on a petition. What a perfect example for them of their first amendment right to petition. My students right now are writing their own constitution as we study the U.S. Constitution & Bill of Rights, and I am going to be sharing this example with them.

    Thanks, as always, for sharing your genius (and that of your students) with the world!

  6. Hi Denise,
    I truly was proud of my student. She's the type of person who is eager, enthusiastic and loves to learn. I loved that she spent several days collecting the signatures and that she wanted to change things. I'm hoping that she will not give up her ideas of wanting to make a difference because this didn't turn out as she had hoped.
    Would love to hear what your 7th graders thought of this whole process.
    Thank you for taking the time to comment!

  7. Hi Nancy! I just got a chance to read this post. Amazing. A couple of things. I love that these children are passionate enough to try and change something. I love that they had the guts to do something instead of just whine as most of us do. They deserve a lot of credit! I'm sure the "Night at the Museum" will be great fun, but it would have been nice to see them win this one! Great story and clearly a great bunch of kids!

  8. Wow! What a great experience for your class to go through! I am sure they will remember it for the rest of their lives! I just became your newest follower and I look forward to reading more! Stop by my blog anytime!

    One Teacher's Take


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