Hundreds of fourth and fifth grade classes from throughout the Greater Philadelphia area recently submitted their written responses to the 6th Annual "Citizenship Challenge Essay Contest" sponsored by the Rendell Center for Citizenship and Civics – a competition providing an opportunity for students to think critically and express themselves about a current issue facing our democracy.
This year's challenge posed the following question to participating students: "Why is the First Amendment important to you?"
After submitting the essays, the initial pool of applicants was then narrowed down to a group of ten finalists who were invited to the National Constitution Center to defend their position in front of a live panel of distinguished judges, including former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell and the Honorable Marjorie Rendell.
Among the finalists invited to participate in this year's event were students from Ann Friedlander's fifth grade class at Merion and Melissa McGuire's Challenge class at Cynwyd, who both delivered engaging, entertaining and enlightening on-stage expositions before answering a series of questions from Governor Rendell, Judge Marjorie Rendell and the team of moderators.
With all of the presentations and deliberations complete, the judges ultimately announced that Mrs. Friedlander's team placed third in the competition earning Merion a $500 check to be used toward a program that promotes civics learning and engagement across the student body. Both Merion and Cynwyd will also receive classroom copies of the Literature-Based Mock Trial curriculum as well as a civics library for their school for qualifying as finalists in this year's competition.