On April 5, students from Wiscasset Middle High School Skyped with Sen. Angus King on location at the U.S. Capitol. Students collectively prepared questions, and after a brief description of his job as a senator, Angus King proceeded to answer all questions, student by student. This unique production is what King calls “Capitol Classroom.” So far, he has done 26 Capitol Classrooms with high school students across the state.

Capitol Classroom is beautifully simple but powerfully effective in helping our young people, at a very formative age, understand representative democracy. If just one time in their high school career, students could look their representative in the eye, ask a question, be heard and understand the job of a representative or senator, we could have a better, stronger democracy.

Even for those going off to college, high school might be the last time in their lives our youth will formally learn U.S. history and government. In some school systems, social studies is not even consistently taught until middle school, nor is it a content area that is included on many standardized tests.

At the same time, our world has gotten more complicated, and understanding our history and government, and how to critically evaluate information sources, are vital.

We need to work together as parents, teachers and representatives in public office to help our young people become strong and engaged citizens.

What if Maine’s entire congressional delegation did a form of Capitol Classroom? What if every parent took their child to the voting booth? What if every educator modeled critical, multi-sourced news consumption? What if lawmakers and school boards supported and encouraged social studies as a discipline?

It starts here, now and with us!

Mary Ellen Bell

social studies teacher, Wiscasset Middle High School