NCHS class revels in ‘real world application of research’

Nelson County High School senior Jesse Chowning described the experience as “one of the most impactful things” of his high school career.

Fellow senior, Kaitlyn Hutchins, agreed that it was a great experience and really liked the fact that she got to speak with a state Senator and express her opinion about a bill.

Their English Four teacher, Dan Bradley, called the experience a highlight of his 25+ year career as an educator. “It was a great day.”

“I never saw anything like this before. It was an awesome day,” said state Senator Jimmy Higdon.

So what was all the enthusiasm about?

The result of “a real world application of research,” Bradley said.

With the school year still in the throes of winter, Bradley assigned his three English Four classes to research actual bills under consideration by the legislature, pick one, research it in depth and then write a proposal about the bill.

Frankfort visit

Senator Jimmy Higdon, left, and NCHS English teacher Dan Bradley pose with members of his English Four class on the Senate floor during a visit to Frankfort. Pictured with them are, from, left, student teacher Hannah Hicks, AFJROTC instuctor James Pfost, Briana Rhea, Filip Randak, Adam Ballard, Tre Defazio, Megan Morris, Emily Hall, Kendall Bland, Joshua Hayes, Becca Bonzo, Madelyn Kays, Jacob Armstrong, Savannah Pineiroa, Anthony Cavalieri, Courtney Nichols, Britany Boling, Zak Womack, Katelyn Hutchins, Kristin Ballard, Drew Dadisman, Jesse Chowning, Michala Stillwell, Corey Kieslich and Taylor Carruthers.

“The students selected and researched issues that were actually on the agenda. They researched bills already filed and wrote proposals on how the legislators ought to vote, based on their research,” Bradley said.

Of the approximately 75 students in three classes, a whopping 33 actually chose to submit their suggestions, and 25 went on to accept an invitation from Sen. Higdon to visit with him in Frankfort and attend a legislative session.

Chowning said he spent “an entire snow day” working on his proposal, which concerned a bill regarding medical malpractice.

“The trip far exceeded my expectations, and our students left impassioned and energized,” Bradley wrote in an email after the trip. “Sen. Higdon said he is counting on me to keep up the assignment; after this year’s visit, he knows we will be (continuing with the assignment in future).”

Highlights of the trip included an impromptu group picture with Gov. Matt Bevin and Rep. David Floyd; an introduction in the Senate chamber and an official photo on the Senate floor.

Sen. Higdon “carved out” close to two hours to hold an actual caucus for our students, during which he spent time conversing with every student about his or her proposal, Bradley wrote.  

“The detail of his questions made it evident he was very familiar with each student’s work.  In fact, he did not treat them as students at all, but as equal members in the caucus.  Their voices truly mattered to him.  It was great!” Bradley said.

Sen. Higdon said he was impressed with Bradley’s initiative to motivate the kids to do the assignment.

“We get things from time to time, maybe a letter, but this was actually 10-15 pages long – their opinions and reasons – I never saw anything like this before. Their opinion, plus facts, backed up by research.”

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