- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 18, 2009

Most D.C.-area schools are closed on Inauguration Day, but teachers are finding ways to incorporate the event into their lesson plans - even hosting inauguration balls.

“We want [the students] to understand the significance of this particular inauguration,” said Maria Trementozzi, social studies department supervisor for Montgomery County public schools. “We want them to get a sense of national culture. It is a national event.”

The department posted some suggested, but not required, inauguration-based lesson plans and teacher resources.

Teachers tried to find lessons that would be age appropriate and that link to concepts already in the curriculum, Ms. Trementozzi said.

Lesson plans for kindergarten through second grade include an introduction to the Tuesday swearing-in of President-elect Barack Obama. The students will make their own inaugural banners and buttons. For the third-, fourth- and fifth-graders, the social studies department suggested they study the differences between the international and national media coverage of the event.

In Prince George’s County, the Isaac J. Gourdine Middle School in Fort Washington will host an inaugural ball Jan. 23. Paulette Thomas, a social studies teacher and drama coach, is helping to organize the event.

The ball will be a formal one for students, parents and community members. Mrs. Thomas hopes students will stick to the theme and come in party attire and dresses. She said students could come in semiformal attire but not jeans.

The event will feature a dinner, a guest speaker, a presentation from the drama club and, of course, dancing. Tickets are $10, and the money will be used to pay for catering and transforming the school cafeteria into a ballroom.

Mrs. Thomas said last week the school curriculum will include inauguration lessons, but plans are not yet finalized.

“This is social studies itself,” she said. “This is history for everyone. The sixth- and seventh-grade students will study the inauguration as part of their larger focus on the [Western] Hemisphere.”

Mrs. Thomas said a couple of students already wrote speeches about Mr. Obama for a language-arts class. She hopes at least one of the students will read a speech at the ball.

The inauguration and its ceremonies have even influenced the physical education classes. While physical education usually has a dance unit, this year Mrs. Thomas specifically requested ballroom dancing.

At the Holy Family Catholic School, in Hillcrest Heights, the Jan. 16 inaugural ball was the final event after months of watching the presidential debates, holding student debates and a mock vote.

“I came to school the day after the election and told the students who voted for Mr. Obama, ‘My gosh, children, you won.’ And I had no celebration. So I said we have to hold our own ball,” Principal Mary Hawkins said.

Mrs. Hawkins said she wanted to have the ball after school but community interest made her switch it to the evening.

The ball was scheduled to include live music, food and recognition of the school’s National Honor Society students.

The Presidential Inauguration Committee invited middle school and high school students to enter an essay contest to win tickets to the inauguration parade. The essays had to answer the question: “How can I contribute to my neighborhood through community service?”

Mr. Obama declared Jan. 19 a national day of community service as part of the inaugural ceremonies. The essay contest was an attempt to make the District as much a part of the nationwide service project as possible, committee officials said.

The contest was limited to D.C. residents. More than 100 winners were to be notified this week.

However, two winners - brothers Tyrone and James Coleman - were notified Jan. 9.

“Community Service means more to me now after the three house fires that put my family of 10 people in a hotel three years in a row,” wrote James, 13, a seventh-grader at Alice Deal Middle School. “Each time the Red Cross helped us with food and clothing. My church, family and friends took the kids shopping and checked on us a lot. I never thought people would help us like they did. My mom always volunteers us to help others and now I know why. I have witnessed how helping others will eventually come back to you.”

Tyrone, 11, a sixth-grader at Burroughs Educational Campus in Northeast, wrote about his interest in the community.

“I can contribute to my neighborhood through community service by first writing my congressman or congresswoman to ask for more signs to be put out so young people will know not to litter,” he said. “I can help my community by reporting suspicious activities in my neighborhood to an adult or police. I will volunteer more to help others so that it will come back to me. I will plant more trees every time a tree falls near my home or school.”

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