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John W. Eyster: New award celebrates exceptional civics students

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John W. Eyster
May 21, 2014

The research fair presented by the 33 students who participated on the fifth annual Discovering Democracy field study led by founder/director, Val Crofts, AP US government & Politics teacher @Milton HS, offers the general public a special opportunity to learn about significant public policy issues researched by these high school seniors with information from their field study in Washington, DC. The public is welcome to the Research Fair between 7 and 9 pm tomorrow evening (Thursday, May 22) in the library at Milton High School.

The first annual LINCOLN AWARD will be presented @8:45 pm before the close of the Research Fair. Mr. Crofts has announced the creation of this award designed to recognize the Discovering Democracy student who epitomizes the qualities espoused by the democracy/civics education program on the basis of peer and staff evaluations. Milton Superintendent Tim Schigur will announce the student who is the first Lincoln Awardee of Discovering Democracy.

I hope to see readers of my WE THE PEOPLE blog at the Discovering Democracy Research Fair tomorrow evening. I'll be happy if readers introduce themselves to me. THANKS!

I was privileged to be in Washington, DC at the same time as this 5th annual Discovering Democracy field study – April 8 – 14 with opportunity to attend their numerous events accepting Mr. Croft's invitation. Mr. Crofts is an alumnus of my WASHINGTON SEMINAR when he was a senior at Parker HS, Janesville. He has done an outstanding development of the field study strategy with his Discovering Democracy. I am grateful for the opportunity to consult with him as he continues developing his Discovering Democracy. I traveled to Washington, D.C. at my own expense both to share the days with Discovering Democracy and to maintain my networking in the capital city, including a visit to the campus of my alma mater, The American University where I earned degrees from both the School of International Service and Wesley Theological Seminar. Washington, DC is my 2nd hometown. I was there through 30 years with my WASHINGTON SEMINAR field study groups from 1973 through 2002. Very meaningful memories!

This year, Val Crofts and his Discovering Democracy students left Milton HS on Tuesday after school, April 8. The Van Galder bus was filled with 33 students and six staff members headed out on an overnight ride to Gettysburg, PA and subsequently Washington, D.C. Crofts added a stop at the Gettysburg Battlefield as background for his students with their study of US President Abraham Lincoln. He provided the students with a tour of that Civil War battleground as a U. S. History teacher and student of the Civil War. Crofts noted that it was at Gettysburg, PA on November 19, 1863 that President Lincoln dedicated the national cemetery where Union troops were buried from the battle. This gave special background for the students as they experienced the official opening of Discovering

Democracy Field Study at The Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC on Wednesday night, April 9 with Crofts citing Lincoln's Gettysburg Address.

The focus of the Discovering Democracy field study is for the students to do field research on a specific significant public policy issue selected in consultation with Mr. Crofts. Each student had completed a research background paper on her/his issue which met standards set by Mr. Crofts for the student to be eligible for field study. Contacts were made in advance of arrival in Washington, DC to set-up appointments for interviews. Interviews were targeted for people working in the legislative and executive branches of the U.S. government, as well as at colleges and universities and special interest groups advocating on the issues being researched by the students. Another component of the field study research comes through question and answer sessions with local representatives in Congress. The group met with Sens. Tammy Baldwin and Ron Johnson and Reps. Mark Pocan and Paul Ryan. A special experience this year was a picture on the House steps of the US Capitol with House Speaker Boehner.

Approaching the Research Fair tomorrow night, the Discovering Democracy students, having completed their final papers based on field study research and prepared a portfolio summarizing the issue studied, have prepared portfolios to summarize their research results. These portfolios will be on display in the Milton HS Library tomorrow evening from 7 – 9 pm. The students will be there to talk with persons who come to the fair. Very valuable opportunity to talk with these high school graduating seniors. Don't miss this special opportunity!

Discovering Democracy V made the regular pilgrimage to the monuments and memorials of the capital city. The icing on the cake this year was that the cherry blossoms were at their peak.

Crofts led a staff of five people to provide guidance and support to the field study students. The staff members were: John Holt, Dan Mayer, Holly Nelson, Jennifer Williams and Tim Schigur. Milton School Superintendent Tim Schigur joined the staff of Discovering Democracy this year to experience and evaluate the program. He expressed his satisfaction observing the Milton High School seniors working conscientiously and effectively in the nation's capital.

Reflecting on the 5th Discovering Democracy field study, Crofts asserted his satisfaction with the field study, “I was very impressed with the students of DD V. Their professionalism and preparedness were amazing to me. They conducted over 150 interviews on field study this year. Every year I am humbled by the mature manner in which these MHS students operate and this year was no exception. My staff this year continued to provide an encouraging and supportive environment in which the students thrive and for that I am always grateful. I am very proud to be associated with DD and its legacy enhanced by this year's field study group! I look forward to unveiling and announcing The Lincoln Award next Thursday.”

The public is welcome to the Discovering Democracy V Research Fair from 7 – 9 pm in the library at Milton Public High School. The students will be available to talk with visitors about their issues and their stance on their issues. HOPE to see you at the Discovering Democracy Research Fair tomorrow evening between 7 and 9 pm. Founder/Director of Discovering Democracy, Val Crofts, asked me to tell you that YOU ALL are WELCOME!



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