Locals study US roots

Alisa Boswell: Portales News-Tribune

Sue Strickler, a political science professor at Eastern New Mexico University, spoke to university students about the Supreme Court justice system and the Constitution, along with two other professors, Monday afternoon at a forum for Constitution Week.

A dozen Eastern New Mexico University students listened attentively as history professor Donald Elder lectured on the making of the American Constitution.

"We have to compromise as a nation and that's what we did to make the Constitution," he told students Monday in a room in the Campus Union Building.

The forum, which included discussion by two other university professors, was held in conjunction with National Constitution Week.

"The Constitution was predicated on the idea of conflict and the importance of conflict of any nation that's for the people and by the people," added history professor Suzanne Balch-Lindsay, saying that the Constitution was built off the idea of conflict and being able to resolve that conflict with compromise.

"Our founding fathers wanted to ensure that we resolve issues but that we take a long time to do so in order to find the best compromise for everyone," she said. "It (conflict) requires that people sit down and actively work together."

Political science professor Sue Strickler talked to students about the importance of Supreme Court justices as the protectors and enforcers of the American Constitution.

"They are the final say in the Constitution," she told students. "They are the protectors of the Constitution and our rights."

Lindsey-Steiner Elementary sixth-graders also spent Monday afternoon talking about the Constitution as they wrote with feather pens on old brown paper, meant to resemble parchment.

"Here at Lindsey, we go all week and have the students learning about the Constitution," said sixth-grade history teacher Belynn Pierce.

Cindy Stone said she talked to her students about businesses in New York City being forbidden to sell certain soda sizes and asked them if they thought the issue was against the constitution or not.

"Some of them were really upset about the idea of not being able to have a big sized soda, so that really seemed to hit home with them," said Stone, laughing.

History teacher Tim Richardson said fifth-graders spent Monday making maps and constitutions for fictional countries and today, students would be adding more detail to their constitutions.

He and Stone said the school would hold elections later in the month for students to vote on a specific issue or to vote someone into an office.

Valencia Elementary third- and fourth-graders will also spend the week doing constitution-themed projects such as making a quilt with each square showing something they learned about the constitution during the week.

"They do things all week just to reinforce the concepts," said assistant principal Sandra Harris. "It's pretty new to these little guys. The teachers just try to make it real to the children."

James Elementary second grade teacher Caron Powers said she and other teachers explain to Portales first- and second-graders that the Constitution is the reason they have the choice to go or not go to church and why their parents can give their honest opinions about government.

"We did a compare and contrast about how things were before the contrast," Monica Nuckols said of her classes.

"My kids were really excited," said second grade teacher Jayne Combs. "They know the years of the constitution now and who James Madison is."

"That's what is great about this grade level is they get excited about everything," Powers said. "I think they're very receptive."

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