By Jay Wyatt
On Monday, October 23, the Byrd Center welcomed 80 high school students and faculty from Berkeley County Public Schools for a day-long workshop focusing on government and deliberate discourse. The students came from all four Berkeley County high schools: Martinsburg, Spring Mills, Hedgesville, and Musselman, and each are participants in their school’s Leadership Program . The workshop allowed students to learn from historical records as well as the opportunity to respond to current events in a group discussion.
The first session of the workshop students attended was led by Dr. Charles Flanagan, Director of Educational Programs for the Center for Legislative Archives (National Archives and Records Administration). Students participated in a “mapping the constitution” exercise, identifying the six major ideas of the United States Constitution and comparing them to determine how the framers conceptualized the structure and separation of powers in our federal government. Dr. Flanagan has conducted this lesson plan at the Byrd Center before for our annual Teacher Training Institute.
After mapping the Constitution, students and their teachers moved to an immersive exercise where they investigated historical documents to become aware of how policy makers respond to critical disasters in their districts, specifically how West Virginia’s senators, congressmen, and state officials responded to the disastrous 1985 Election Day Floods. This session was facilitated by Danielle Emerling, Assistant Curator, Congressional and Political Papers Archivist for the West Virginia University Libraries. The documents which students investigated in this exercise were drawn from the West Virginia and Regional History Centers’ Governor Arch Moore, Jr. papers as well as the Byrd Center’s Robert C. Byrd and Harley O. Staggers, Jr. Congressional Papers collections.