The LGI room at Hamburg Area High School held a session for the United States Senate on Wednesday, May 27, during which three bills were discussed with one passing and being signed.
Hamburg Area High School 11th grade students, all 113, took on the roles of Senators during the school’s first Model Senate.
“This is the first time we’ve ever tried this,” said David Kline, Social Studies teacher. “People are going to say things that you don’t like here today. If they didn’t, this was a very bad Model Senate. People are going to say things that upset you.”
After Kline declared the Senate to be in session, Chelsea Forrest, President of the Senate, opened the session with the first bill which was S-16: Term Length of Abortion. Senators from both sides took the podium and spoke briefly in support or against the bill. Following was a random comment section and then open session before the roll call vote. The two other bills discussed during the session were S-1: Full Automatic Weapons Act and S-14: National Minimum Wage Act.
All sides argued their points with their peers in passionate discussions with little to no empty spaces of silence. The students spoke their minds and created good strong discussions of each bill brining up valid points in support or against.
“I came up with the idea of the Model Senate after struggling with how to teach current events. In my eight years of teaching, I could never seem to find a good way to get kids interested in what was going on in the world around them,” explained Kline. “Last year, I was fortunate enough to chaperone a student to an All-Berks Model Pennsylvania Senate. I decided to take that idea and develop a similar concept for Hamburg Area High School 11th graders this year.”
All of the students were divided into actual Senate Committees, each consisting of about 12 individuals from Kline’s four American Cultures/Studies classes. Using Google Docs, the students created and stored their respective bills and could easily collaborate with students from other sections. The committees were each given about five current event topics to design approximately 20 fake bills throughout the year with a variety of current event issues such as overhauling the Social Security Program, Legal Methods of Capital Punishment, Police Use of Force Laws and how to properly combat ISIS, explained Kline.
During this session, S-16 passed and the other two bills were shot down.
“S-16: Term Length Abortion was only the fourth bill to get passed and signed the entire year,” said Kline.
To make the bill official, President Jarrod Bickley took to the podium accompanied by presidential music to do the ceremonial signing.
“I am incredibly, beyond words, tremendously impressed with everything that you did today,” Kline told the students at the end of the project.
Hamburg Area High School principal Christopher Spohn, who was in attendance during the Model Senate, took a moment to recognize Kline for this project.
“Over the course of this year, this gentleman right here, has maintained the level of excellence. Mr. Kline, as you know is a passionate person when it comes to this topic and content,” said Spohn. “Mr. Kline is most importantly most passionate about YOUR education in this content.”
Spohn presented Kline with the school coin which has become a tradition at Hamburg.
“I set up the pins, you knock them down,” Kline told the students. “We’re a team here.”
The Model Senate was student run with Kline taking a back seat and letting it all play out. Students selected their own political parties two weeks ago as well as elected a majority/minority leader and a whip for both parties. The three bills were selected the Saturday before and the speaking roles were filled during the last three days before the Model Senate.
Kline already has ideas for next year’s Model Senate.