One year after opening to the public, the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the U.S. Senate continues to be a popular destination for teachers, especially those looking to immerse their students in the legislative process.
The EMK Institute in Boston has a full-scale reproduction of the U.S. Senate chamber that allows students to assume different roles.
"Students actually become senators for a day, get together, build legislation, and then debate and vote on it," said Caroline Angel Burke, the vice president for education, visitor experience and collections at the Institute.
Through the Senate Immersion Module (SIM), students are assigned a role as senator, sworn in, and given a bill to create, such as the renewal of the U.S. Patriot Act. Students go into nominee and subcommittee hearings and take on a lawmaker's identity, one whose views don't necessarily line up with their own.
"It's kind of like getting to know someone that you would generally disagree with and maybe understanding where they come from so you're able to work better together," said Hunter Araujo, a senior at Attleboro High School.
Amendments are debated and added to the bill before the group heads back inside the Senate chamber for floor speeches.
"We really feel like students learn best when they are put in a situation where they're experiencing real life," said Nicole Lane, a social studies teacher at Attleboro High School.
"It's kind of opening our eyes to what's actually going on since we're going to be grownups very soon," Attleboro senior Sydney Thomas said.
For the EMK Institute, a key focus is creating the next generation of American leaders.
"We're really hoping to build a more engaged, active citizenry," said Burke. "And until citizens understand how their government works, they don't quite know how they can contribute to that."
The SIM is available to Massachusetts middle and high school groups free of charge. It's proven so popular that the program is booked out for the year. If you'd like to learn more, click here.