Why is the First Amendment important to you? The question was posed last week to fourth- and fifth-grade Philadelphia-area students at the National Constitution Center for the finals of the fifth annual Citizenship Challenge. The event, an initiative of the Rendell Center for Civics and Civic Education, was co-presented by the Constitution Center and the Annenberg Public Policy Center, home of the Rendell Center.
This year, the question was based on the rights guaranteed by the First Amendment. A dozen teams of finalists presented their essays through skits and songs performed before the four judges: Rendell Center co-founders Edward G. Rendell, the former governor of Pennsylvania, and the Hon. Marjorie O. Rendell, a federal judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, as well as the Rev. Dr. Herb H. Lusk, of Greater Exodus Baptist Church in Philadelphia, and Philadelphia attorney Larry Brown.
The top classroom is awarded $1,000, and the runners-up each receive $500 for a program that promotes civic learning and engagement. All the finalists also receive classroom copies of “We the Civics Kids,” a literature-based mock trial program developed by the Rendell Center, as well as a civics library.
The Philadelphia winners of the Citizenship Challenge are:
- First place: Anne Frank Elementary School, Philadelphia. Christine Delesandro’s 5th grade class.
- Second place: Buckingham Elementary School, Central Bucks School District. Linda Raitt’s 5th grade class.
- Third place (tie): Merion Elementary School, Lower Merion School District. Ann Friedlander’s 5th grade class
Radnor Elementary School, Radnor Township School District. Todd Serpico’s 5th grade class.
A Citizenship Challenge in Pittsburgh
In addition, the Rendell Center held a Citizenship Challenge competition for the first time this year in Pittsburgh, at the Senator John Heinz History Center. The topic: Should the requirement that the president be a natural-born citizen be kept in the Constitution? Eight teams of finalists presented their arguments before a panel of judges comprising the Rendells and Latasha Wilson-Batch, a board member of the Heinz Center. The Pittsburgh winners are:
- First place: Kentucky Avenue School, Shadyside. Roberta Kardell’s 5th grade class.
- Second place: Shaler Area Elementary School, Shaler Area School District. Darla Gerlach’s 5th grade class.
- Third place: Pittsburgh Linden School, Point Breeze. Tamika Thomas’s 5th grade class.