Social media challenge promotes student involvement in civics

Social media challenge promotes student involvement in civics

Students of Ken Abrams social studies class at Scituate Middle School take selfies holding the Constitution as part of the #wethepeoplechallenge, a social media challenge to inspire youth civics.

SCITUATE – A new social media challenge is being introduced to the students of Scituate Middle School in hopes of creating a national trend promoting civics and education.

Former history teacher Carol Costa, a Scituate resident and member of the Scituate Housing Authority, said she wanted to inspire learning civics and democracy through a “selfie challenge.” Costa teamed up with SMS social studies teacher Ken Abrams, who will encourage his students to participate in the challenge.

Costa proposed that students take a selfie holding a copy of the U.S. Constitution along with the hashtag, “wethepeoplechallenge,” to inspire students to become involved in local and national government.

Sept. 17 is National Constitution Day, and Costa says if government leaders and Rhode Island celebrities participate in the challenge, she thinks it can take off.

“No moving cars, no ice, no pepper to have in their faces,” she said, referring to past viral challenges. “Just a selfie and the Constitution.”

Reaching out to U.S. Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse and Jack Reed, Costa was given pocket copies of the Constitution to hand out, starting with Abrams and his class.

Costa said she thinks it’s important for everyone to be familiar with the Constitution, but also give them the tools to deal with the government in front of them.

“I just want to promote civics. I want kids to re-engage with the system and the process. You can criticize the government all day long, but you can’t do anything unless you know how to make change,” Costa said.

She said when she reached out to Abrams, he was immediately receptive to the idea.

“Students love anything selfie,” Abrams said. “They love the idea of it possibly going viral.”

He said he is always looking for new ways to teach the Constitution and engage students. With more focus on STEM classes, he said social studies has been reduced or cut from the curriculum in many schools.

“After 30 years of teaching social studies, it’s clear to me that all students need a good understanding of civics,” he said. “It’s critical to the survival of democracy.”

Civics in the classroom begins at an early age, starting with learning about neighborhoods and communities, Abrams said.

“I’ve always seen civics as more of a ‘practice’ than a ‘subject’ you study in a class or two. It’s like physical education, health or music – you don’t just take it once, it’s an ongoing lesson,” Abrams said.

Abrams said he plans on doing a “take a friend to vote selfie” during the general elections to educate youths about the voting process.

Over the years, Abrams said he watched several of his former students run for office, including James Scacco, who currently serves on the Scituate School Committee.

He said middle school students, in particular, enjoy being actively engaged in activities related to civics and politics, saying he’s noticing an increasing interest.

“They need to see what they are learning and the real world,” he said.

Costa said she would like to anyone who wants to influence youth to partake in the challenge.