Local and Regional Forums

If you are planning a Forum in your school, district, or region, we'd like to hear from you. Contact us at choices@brown.edu.

Teachers and community members nationwide have organized a variety of local and regional forums recently.These forums are organized around any content topic (or topics) that fits the curriculum and informs the ultimate question of the role of the United States in the world. What follows are samples of local forums that have taken place. Please tell us about your programs so that they can be shared with others.

Illinois Forum on Human Rights

After a year of planning, a "re-imagined" Illinois Capitol Forum on America’s Future took center stage at Illinois State University’s Bone Student Center April 12, 2012. With a generous grant from the McCormick Foundation and the continued guidance of the Illinois Humanities Council, teachers involved in the program looked to ISU’s History Education Department as a major partner in fashioning a Capitol Forum experience based on various human rights issues. A Choices’ curriculum unit, Competing Visions of Human Rights: Questions for U.S. Policy, was the basis for discussion and deliberation both in the classroom and at the Forum. The new format also provided an opportunity for pre-student teachers to interact with high school students. As a follow-up, students were to design a human rights oriented project to encourage them to take action in their communities after the Capitol Forum event. more...

HOBY Washington: Future of the U.S. Role in the World

2008 was the second year that Washington educators brought Capitol Forum to HOBY (Hugh O’Brian Youth) Leadership Seminar for high school sophomores. Approximately 140 HOBY student ambassadors were divided into four groups, one for each of the four Futures. The HOBY Team Alumni (students returning from 2007 to be on staff) served as the facilitators for each Future breakout and as the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Each Futures group prepared a visual, oral, and kinesthetic presentation. After the large group presentations, the ambassadors deliberated the merits of each Future and completed the paper ballot. See HOBY Washington for a fuller description of the programs in both years and for links to the program's website.

Preparing for the Elections - Bellevue, NE

I divided my class into three groups and assigned each group to research a candidate. We used the five themes of Capitol Forum to investigate the candidates' positions. The class was already familiar with the units. Each group presented what they learned about each candidate's position on each theme. After we were all well informed we used the deliberative discussion rubric to discuss how we felt about the candidates. Everyone in my class is voting in the up-coming election and they said they felt better prepared to make a decision. They also felt that it will help them as they listen to the candidates in the coming months.

Student Congressional Council - University of Akron

In March 2008, U.S. Representative Ralph Regula (OH-16th) hosted area high school students for a student forum at which they considered U.S. policy choices for immigration reform. The Choices Program's U.S. Immigration Policy in an Unsettled World formed the basis for this forum. Policy recommendations developed by the student participants will be entered into the Congressional Record by Representative Regula. This is an annual event sponsored by Representative Regula and the University of Akron.

McLean County Diversity Project

From June 6-12, 2007, 32 students from several middle schools in McLean County, Illinois met with leaders at the United Nations in New York and with scholars and community members around the city. They were part of a year-long program organized by the Mayor's office in Downs, Illinois, a rural community outside Bloomington-Normal. The Diversity Program, launched in 2002, introduces middle school students to new cultures and ideas and provides opportunities for students to share their new knowledge and awareness with their peers and the community.

In fall 2006 the Diversity Project joined with the Choices Program to add an international focus to their work. Over the course of the year students considered a range of international issues including environmental policy, trade, terrorism, and immigration.

Portland, Maine

Students from Casco Bay High School, a new Expeditionary Learning school, and community members in the Portland, Maine area from war torn countries came together for a Forum on genocide on May 10th, 2007. The Portland Forum focused on genocide as a historic and continuing global issue. Teachers and students have been working on human rights as their main “expedition” all year and more recently have been preparing for the deliberations on US foreign policy with regard to genocide. The Choices unit, Confronting Genocide: Never Again?, has helped to guide this discussion.

The program was organized and sponsored by KIDS Consortium and hosted by the Sheraton Conference Center of South Portland. The event followed a recently held community vigil for victims of genocide and a lecture by Mary Robinson, human rights advocate and former President of Ireland. Oral histories researched and told by students in the program were on display at the Salt Gallery in Portland in April. See Portland Forum on Genocide for more.

Normal, Illinois

Sharing Your Story: If you have a program that is an adaptation of Capitol Forum, please let us know. We are developing a database of innovations. Send email to choices@brown.edu with "New Forum Models" in the subject line.

Deliberation in the classroom comes alive! Students from Normal Community West & Normal Community High School had the opportunity to discuss and share ideas regarding current immigration issues facing the U.S. Students debated and ranked the four options presented in the Immigration Today Choices Unit. This facilitated lively exchanges and brought forth a range of viewpoints; all of which added to the positive experience of the students who were involved. These students then reported their experiences back to their classrooms and expressed their votes on the Choices website.

Sissonville, West Virginia

Students from Sissonville High School were filmed, complete with voiceover, doing a one hour Choices "values exercise" lesson as part of preparation for their Capitol Forum. The film will be shown at the 2007 West Virginia Social Studies Summer Institute and will also be available on line at the West Virginia Department of Education (WVDE) website for teachers to view. The intent of this Capitol Forum adaptation is to spark additional interest in a West Virginia Capitol Forum for 2007-2008.

Hudson, Massachusetts

Students from Hudson High School, Lunenburg High School, and Millbury High School came together to participate in an adaptation of the Capitol Forum on Thursday, April 26, 2007. The Massachusetts Capitol Forum at Hudson High School chose three global issues topics: immigration, nuclear weapons and the war in Iraq. Teachers worked with students preparing them in the classroom for the deliberations on these issues. The program was organized and sponsored by ELNA Collaborative (Education and Leadership for a Nonviolent Age) and is hosted by Hudson High School.

Camden, Maine

The focus of Camden's adaptationof Capitol Forum was on the European Union and its admittance of new member states, with particular emphasis on cultural diversity. This was held on February 23, 2007 in conjuction with the Camden Conference - a nonprofit, non-partisan educational organization whose mission is to foster informed discourse on world issues. The conference looked at the relationship between the US and the European Union. There were three schools represented with a total number of 18 students plus 12 adults. Everyone participated using the Choices format but also used background readings researched by the students. There was excellent collaboration among students and adults in small and large groups. The variety of perspectives and life experience made the deliberation of particularly high quality - lots of retired foreign service and state department people were present. Plans for next year include writing a grant in conjunction with the Camden Conference, and perhaps the World Affairs Council of Maine to bring in more schools from around the state, and use technology to stream or connect with those schools that can't travel the distance.

Omaha, Nebraska

Omaha Public Schools and Bellevue High School came together to participate in Omaha Metro Capitol Forum on November 16, 2006. Those who participated in the forum spent a month studying foreign policy and international issues in their history, debate or government classes.The group convened in the high school library, and also used a seminar room and a classroom for the breakout sessions. Many of the teachers said they enjoyed working with the students in a format of the small breakout sessions. US Representative Lee Terry, a former social studies teacher, was a guest panelist who met with the students for the final part of the day.

Normal, Illinois

In early November, 2006, 9th graders from Normal Community and Normal Community West high schools met to deliberate on Genocide in a district wide forum. The fifty student delegates represented their freshmen classmates from the 9th grade Regional World Studies classes of the two schools that had just completed the Genocide unit, Confronting Genocide: Never Again?, in their individual classes. The student delegates first examined five case studies of past genocides including Bosnia, Rwanda, the Holocaust, Cambodia and Armenia. Following that examination and discussion, the delegates examined the current crisis in Darfur. Using the Choices Teaching with the News material on Darfur, the delegates engaged in a spirited two hour debate and deliberation on what America’s policy should be concerning the crisis. Following the Forum, the delegates went back to their respective classrooms and presented the day’s events to their classmates. After their classroom discussion, all of the 9th grade students in the two high schools voted on what they personally thought America’s role in Darfur should be. The Forum, the post-classroom deliberations and the voting process reinforced to the 9th graders that their voices matter!

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