After winning the state We the People title in January, students at Corona del Sol in the Tempe Unified School District are looking to raise money to travel to the national competition in Washington, D. C., in April.
The 29 students who take Tim Smith's Advanced Placement U.S. Government and Politics class competed in the competition on January 6 against 10 other schools.
"They learn a lot of teamwork and they learn writing skills," Smith said, a teacher at the school for 29 years and head coach of the team since 1994.
To win the competition, students had to answer questions regarding the Constitution's historical context, constitutional application and contemporary function, Smith said. It teaches students to think in ways that are beyond just memorizing facts and dates, Smith said. Students have to think critically.
"It's their view, as long as they can back it up with good evidence, they can give their own opinion," Smith said.
Competition looks much like a Congressional hearing and students open with a four-minute speech with follow up questions from judges for an additional six minutes.
While classroom time is used, students spend a lot of their own time preparing answers to their questions, Smith said. The competition and judging can be tough.
"Some of the judges are authors, professors, local staffers from congressional offices and retired judges," Smith said. "There's quite an array."
Before the students embark on the next round of competition, they will receive new questions for the national competition, Smith said.
"There's a pretty good tradition at Corona," Smith said. Corona has won 12 state titles and placed fourth at nationals in 2001, he said.
The national trip takes place over three days at the end of April at George Mason University. The finalists who make it to the third day get to "testify" in a Senate hearing room in the Capitol building.
The program used to be financed by Congress, but because of budgetary cuts, the team is responsible for funding its own trip, Smith said.
The total cost of the trip for everyone is expected to be about $46,000, Smith said. The students are hoping to raise at least $14,000 as a group. The rest will fall on the students and their families.
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