Nancy Coltun Webster of the Post Tribune wrote an article about our project’s impact on students. Read the article below or read it on the Post Tribunes’ website.
DOC 200 helps students learn good
Editor’s note: On Dec. 11, 1816, Indiana became the 19th state in the Union. On Jan. 28, 1836, Porter County was created. A year later, on Jan. 18, Lake County became independent. As the state celebrates its bicentennial, the Post-Tribune will be taking a regular look back at the history of Northwest Indiana.
“I always tell my students to dream big,” said Dr. Louise Chickie-Wolfe, education director for the Munster Junior Historical Society and a retired Munster school teacher. So, when she conceived of a project to honor the state’s bicentennial, her students challenged her to dream big as well.
As a result, Demonstrating Our Citizenship 200 — or DOC 200 — has been designated an official Indiana Bicentennial Legacy Project and its first awards ceremony will take place on Dec. 11, the day Indiana became a state 200 years ago. The project — available to students throughout Indiana — asks participants to document when they perform 50 “outstanding citizenship” skills four times each. The skills reflect character traits in four areas: integrity, acceptance, service and patriotism.
On Tuesday, Nov. 29 — following a callout meeting for the project — Munster High School senior Skylar Gronkiewicz and her brother Grant sat with Chickie-Wolfe in a lecture hall at Munster High School to discuss their projects. The conversation was part of a required exit interview upon completion of their DOC 200 projects.
Skylar and Grant will be among the first group of students to complete the project and be recognized with Outstanding Citizenship medal at an awards ceremony at 2 p.m., Dec. 11 at James B. Eads School in Munster.
Chickie-Wolfe asked the siblings to reflect on the experiences they had while endeavoring to perform the 50 skills four times each.
“What was your favorite part of the project?” Chickie-Wolfe asked the siblings.
Skylar said she enjoyed a bike ride to the Community Veterans Memorial in Munster. She was moved by the exhibits there and some of it was sad.
Skylar and Grant both expressed that documentation of their actions was complicated and required them to think about their activities and interactions daily.
“It makes you much more aware of your surroundings,” said Skylar Gronkiewicz.
“The project is designed to help you become more aware,” Chickie-Wolfe said.
That impact is not just on the students, but sometimes the family gets involved, according to Chickie-Wolfe. She said two moms of younger Junior Historical Society Members called her early on when she was just getting the project started. One mom told her she was surprised that one of the patriotism requirements asked the kids to visit a cemetery and decorate a site.
“She told me she would have never thought about taking her family to a cemetery, but she took her children and said ‘we had the most interesting experiences. The kids walked around and were fascinated by what they learned,'” Chickie-Wolfe said.
Another mom said her child showed appreciation to first responders by baking cookies and taking them to the fire house.
The mom told her “the firemen were so surprised and pleased,” Chickie-Wolfe said. “They took (the family) on a tour of the firehouse. It is a life-changing experience. You don’t just tell kids to learn to be good citizens, you teach them. Repeated practice until it becomes part of who they are. The fact is, we are making better people.”
Now the DOC 200 project is being offered to students at Munster High School through Project X. Nearly two dozen students attended the callout meeting on Tuesday. Project X provides students with volunteer experiences to promote civic responsibility.
“This is not a small thing you can do in one weekend and you’re done. It takes time and effort,” Chickie-Wolfe told the students. She added the minimum amount of time necessary would be 100 days, although the days can take place in a few months or can be spread out over a longer period of time.
According to Chickie-Wolfe, the average time to complete the project is about eight months.
Project X students who complete the project are also required to provide a personal portfolio reflecting on their experience along with their other documentation, according to Leigh Ann Westland, Munster High School teacher and Project X sponsor. The portfolios may be creative expressions such as a one-page essay, photos, artwork or video.
Chickie-Wolfe cautioned that she does not want the students to consider the portfolio process an onerous task or a “big project. It is just a way to share the memories and it is something to bring to the exit interview.”
Munster students who complete the project and participate in an exit interview are recognized in an awards ceremony where they receive a medal. They will be permitted to wear the medal at their high school graduation ceremony. Younger students who complete the project receive a pin.
Chickie-Wolfe said her work with the Junior Historical Society is very satisfying. She got involved with the group 10 years ago, for the town’s centennial celebration.
“It was when I was planning to retire from teaching,” Chickie-Wolfe said. “I was teaching in Munster at the time and I decided I still wanted to be involved in students’ work. I started the Junior Historical Society for students in grades five through eight.”
When the students aged out of the program, they came back to her and told her they wanted to continue to work with the group.
“I started a high school leadership program and they help me out with the younger students. I have students now who are in college who have helped me set up the web page for this project.”
She said the Junior Historical Society is a small group of less than 20.
“Over the years, we have planted 100 trees in the parks. We’ve pulled invasive weeds from the park areas. We always participate in the walk for Juvenile Diabetes. We work for the Cancer Resource Center walk, manning the water stations and the food tent. My kids are so well-known, organizations don’t hesitate to ask us to help out,” she said. “The goals of the Junior Historical Society are to preserve and teach history, to provide service and to build character. It was the third goal that steered me into the DOC 200 project.”
For more information about the DOC 200 Project visit https://secure.in.gov/ibc/legacyprojects/3586.htm