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A new hands on approach for AP Government class

How a teacher is restructuring a curriculum
Robin Dowdy instructing her 6th period class

Taking a government class in high school is often brushed off as a mere requirement, a box that students must check that is really only for strongly political people to pursue.

Robin Dowdy has been teaching various humanities classes at Ballard for seven years, and she thinks the class deserves better. She has always been fascinated by the subject, as she was a political science major in college. This year being her first year teaching AP Government, she has been working hard to show all of her students what the topic has to offer – and that every student has a place in the class. 

Dowdy has made the course her own with an emphasis on projects rather than tests. She believes government by nature lends to a project-based curriculum because of it going beyond pure history and into a real life structure.

“In the real world we do projects, we don’t often sit and answer questions,” Dowdy said. “You can have all of the materials and look at them, but then you really just have to create something.”

As a teacher, she finds these projects much more interesting to teach because it allows for her students to showcase what they’ve learned.

“If I was teaching regular government, I’d probably be doing the same thing,” she said.

So far, an average day in Ms. Dowdy’s AP Government class consists of group discussions on current events and content as well as projects, the most recent being a large-scale simulation of Congress.

Though the legislation created in the simulation may only reign sovereign within the walls of the classroom, everything else down to the language used on the floor and the bills created out of specific district issues were accurately created.

Dowdy is known at school for her dedication to making her class an engaging space

 “Ms. Dowdy has been one of my favorite teachers because of how much she cares for all of her students,” Naomi Pearson, senior and AP Government student, said. “She has made government such a fun class.” 

Dowdy applied this same project-based mindset to the construction of her class. Through her gathering of materials not just from the College Board but from previous teachers and training, she gained insight on how best to approach the task of designing the class. She has found that forming connections with her students and building her curriculum alongside them has been by far the best tactic. 

“I feel like teaching is this way: you have to kind of get into it and see what works, what students like, who the students are,” Dowdy said.

Dowdy described how she had been thrilled to get the chance to teach AP Government, but knew she had huge shoes to fill as her predecessor of the course, Kelly Locklin, had been a fixture of the class having taught it since 2014.

“However, I hope to live up to his legacy someday,” she said.

So far, the process of creating the class out of her love for government and learning about her students has been energizing and rewarding for Dowdy.

“I’ve just been really impressed,” Dowdy said. “It’s really fun getting to know all the seniors and the way your minds work!”

As she works with the seniors this year, Dowdy hopes her students walk out with deep knowledge on how the government works and that they can use this against blinding rhetoric and misinformation. 

However, she also wants them to leave the class with a different type of understanding.

“I want every student to come out confident not only in that they are a citizen who can contribute, but also that they are a capable learner,” she said. “Just because we leave school, doesn’t mean we stop learning. Even if it’s just having knowledgeable conversations with their peers, that is an empowering place to be.”


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