Democracy is learned through doing, not telling. The purpose of this paper is to report the findings from an action research project where a group of fourth-grade students participated in a simulation that explored the possibilities and the constraints of acting democratically, while faced with the dilemmas of environmental disaster and establishing a new society.
The authors studied how participating students engaged in deliberations and self-directed inquiry. The authors focused the data collection on the responses of students to the challenges presented in the simulation.
Based on the analysis of student work during the simulation and reflection on the simulation after the project, the authors documented the ways in which students critiqued authority or expressed their distrust in it, engaged in difficult deliberations around controversial issues, and developed expanded agency through inquiry-based learning.
This paper presented a model of inquiry learning that can be critical, i.e. examining issues of power and justice, while engaging in deliberation via a simulation that integrated social studies and English language arts. Creating space for young students to deliberate issues, steeped in values, and ethics, allows them to recognize the inherent tension and dissension necessary to a healthy democracy.
Payne, K.A., Hoffman, J.V. and DeJulio, S. (2017), "Doing democracy through simulation, deliberation, and inquiry with elementary students", Social Studies Research and Practice, Vol. 12 No. 1, pp. 56-69. https://doi.org/10.1108/SSRP-03-2017-0009
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