It was an historical moment, literally, for members of The Bush School community in October.
Students that were in Julie Barber’s 2020-2021 Fourth Grade class were informed they received a response from the letters they penned last November to the President of the United States Joe Biden.
"Honestly, I just wanted kids to capture all the hope they were feeling in that moment after the election," said Julie. "I told the kids it was unlikely we'd get a response since Biden got so many letters. I think the kids hearing about each other's hopes and dreams for the next four years gave them a boost, too."
Students (now in Fifth Grade) in Julie's class wrote the letters a week after the election was called for Biden. Julie explained her students had studied the electoral process, held a mock election, and learned about the responsibilities of citizens in a civics unit leading up to the election. The three big topics students addressed in the letters—COVID-19, racial injustice, and climate change.
"Our students were really interested in learning about the issues and also have worries about so many issues that they want to see change," Julie said. "Since we learned about citizen's responsibilities to participate in government, sharing our thoughts with our newly elected official seemed just right!"
While receiving a response back was historic, the act of making one's voice heard is nothing new for Julie's curriculum.
"I think it's important that students feel a sense of agency and self-efficacy," Julie said. "And so we do send letters to lots of officials, businesspeople, activists, anyone we think can help us make a difference. The thing I hope for most is that I am helping to build people who are motivated to participate in the problem solving our world needs. This response from the President shows those students that carefully crafted words can have a big impact. I hope it compels them to stay engaged in our democracy and in the greater world."
Part of the written response back from President Biden echoed Julie's message.
"Even at your young ages, you have the power to impact the future for generations to come," Biden said.
Julie said when students found out President Biden replied, the response was pure elation.
"They just gasped and started cheering," Julie said. "I could hear kids at pick-up telling their parents about it as their car door opened.”