Lobbying Whirlwind

What a week it was!  On Tuesday the 10 middle school students in the Let's Go Lobbying Intensive had the opportunity to meet with staff at both Senator Casey's and Senator Toomey's Philadelphia offices. They lobbied Senator Casey to continue to press assertively for pay equity for women, and they asked Senator Toomey to live up to his campaign promise to expand the reach of background checks for gun purchases.

And on Wednesday - they had a visit by Mayor Kenney, whom they briefed on their meetings at the senators' offices. They also asked the mayor for issues he would like them to research and present to state representatives and senators in Harrisburg next semester.

How did this Intensive come about? Course co-teachers Jake Hunter and Lois West, shortly after the November election, realized that the nation's fervent political climate had not escaped our students and classrooms. Surrounded by young students whose voices are missing from American political discourse, we decided to come up with a course that would to empower students to confidently and knowledgeably share their concerns with the policymakers who are fashioning their futures.

The overarching main idea was to have the students, as non-voting yet well- informed, concerned minors, understand that they have a right and obligation to participate in political discourse and that their concerns and opinions deserve consideration by our nation’s elected officials

Our students – 6th, 7th, and 8th graders – worked collaboratively in teams of five. While teachers designed the “architecture” of the 8-week elective, students were responsible for

  • setting up appointments with their senators (or senatorial staff) on their own
  • identifying and researching an issue of concern,
  • Interviewing guest experts (lobbyists, politicians who have been lobbied themselves) to learn lobbying techniques and to identify issues
  • involving classmates who were not in the course, and
  • preparing, role playing, and presenting their position and request for action (orally and written) to the senators or their staff.

Next term, the Let's Go Lobbying intensive has its sights set on Harrisburg, where they will spend the day visiting various offices in the State House to express their views and concerns.