Students Engage in Local Politics for IB Assignment

The preservation of land is personal to Storey Deerhake ’18 because she grew up in a community that values and protects nature. (Photo by Katharine Sipio)

Students working towards their International Baccalaureate Diplomas are getting a first-hand look at local politics as they study political engagement in their IB Global Politics class.

“The design of this project shows how the key concepts from this course are manifest in their daily lives,” said Meredith Alford ’01, who explained that students identify their own political issue and create a question to explore that issue in depth. “It shows how power politics in play affect real-world decisions.”

The topics chosen by students either affect them directly or the community in which they live. Gregory Levy ’18 chose an issue very personal to him—the four-year plan to improve and expand the Scudder Falls Bridge. The construction is near his family home in Lower Makefield Township, Pennsylvania.

Greg is still in the research phase of his political engagement and shared some of his early findings. “I am surprised by the environmental constraints on the project. For example, companies can only drill in a four to five-hour period so that they don’t disturb fish mating patterns.”

Claire Heydacker ’18 is also working on a topic that affects her community, studying the proposed cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). SNAP is a monthly supplement that helps families in need purchase nutritious food. To gain a broader perspective, she is working with the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen (TASK) and observing how TASK tackles food scarcity. Her research has also lead to some unexpected findings.

“I am always taken aback to think that food insecurity exists even in our area of the world. You expect it in many areas—especially developing countries, regions at war, areas suffering from natural disasters. What you don’t expect is that there are people within a fifty-mile radius of us who do not have the means to afford adequate food for themselves and their families,” Claire said. The experience is giving her a more in-depth understanding of how the government operates.

Storey Deerhake ’18 is nearing the end of her project, which asks the question, “How does the promotion of farmland preservation at the local level help encourage sustainability within communities?” To explore her question, she has been following the work of a group of Middletown residents who want to preserve Stone Meadows Farm as an open space. The property, located across from George School was sold to Metropolitan Development Group who plans to build 128 single-family homes on the property.

The preservation of land is personal to Storey because she grew up in a community that values and protects nature. She said that through her research she learned that even little changes take a lot of work.

“I’ve learned a lot about what it takes to make change in even the smallest communities. I’ve met and talked about this project with people who have spent decades writing letters and calling people day after day,” Storey said.

Meredith said her students are accustomed to the research and writing tasks for the project, but the engagement gives students another skillset that they can bring into the working world. “They are cold calling city officials and non-profit organizations to gather information. That personal stretch is a valuable learning experience. It pushes students out of their comfort zones and really taps into a lot of important professional skills.”