Recently DCD 8th graders experienced what it’s like to be a U.S. senator during their visit to the Edward M. Kennedy Institute where they participated in the Senate Immersion module. The Institute simulates the legislative process where a bill gets turned into a law and where a President’s nominees for cabinet offices are confirmed. During their visit in the full-sized replica of the senate chamber, DCD students (senators) were tasked with addressing the Affordable Care Act. Advanced preparation for the day involved reviewing a brief of the Act and understanding the role and requirements of a senator.

Upon taking their seats, students were given a tablet that identified them as a particular senator, from a particular state, and designated them with their party affiliation. They were given some background on constituent, party, and senator views with respect to the current bill in front of them or stance on regulations. Students would need to consider this information materially important during the caucus and voting phase of the morning. It was a great lesson in how senators need to balance differing perspectives along with what they believe as individuals.

After moving into smaller committee meetings, they discussed and tackled specific issues related to the act. In this process, they learned how senators create alliances as well as the use of the filibuster. Reconvening as a full senate, the students were required to share written statements developed by the individual committee groups before the full vote was taken. Though junior members of the senate because of their age, DCD students held their own among the group of older students from Lowell High School’s Debate Club, Politics Club and AP U.S. History class. This beyond the classroom experience definitely brought the students’ civics unit in U.S. History to life.