Academy Curricular Exchange
Columbia Education Center
Social Studies

TITLE:  Town Meeting - Direct Representation

AUTHOR:  Timothy D. Oliver, Faith Lutheran School, NV

GRADE LEVEL/SUBJECT:  9-12, history, government

OVERVIEW:  Should the town of Twin Cheeks ban motorized
rentals on Thome Lake?  Students will explore the political,
personal, and economic issues involved in making this
decision as they assume different roles in this simulation.

PURPOSE:  Students are to use discussion, negotiation, and
political skill to make a group decision.

  1.  Students will understand the political and economic
      situation of the simulation town.
  2.  Students will successfully assume the roles of
      particular individuals from the simulation.
  3.  Students will develop and write a detailed statement
      of their characters' identities, as appropriate for
      the simulation.
  4.  Students will organize and stage a town meeting to
      consider the proposed law.
  5.  Students will participate in the town meeting
      discussion, negotiations, and decision-making.


Handout A:          Town Description

     Twin Cheeks is a small town on a hundred-acre lake.
Most of the wage earners among the town's one hundred
permanent residents work in the lumber industry (harvesting
and planting trees or working in the lumber mill ) or in one
of the small businesses along Center Street (restaurants,
clothing stores, grocers).
     Another hundred residents own vacation homes along the
shores of Thome Lake.  Most of these people have their
principle residents in the large city of Quayleville, two
hours away.
     A third group of fifty residents make their living from
the growing summer tourist trade.  These residents own or
operate the seaplane rides; the motorboat, canoe, bicycle,
or moped concession; the snack bars, restaurants, and
novelty shops located near the public beach.
     Twin Cheeks has an unemployment rate of 25% among the
permanent residents.  Many of these permanent residents have
been supplementing their family incomes with jobs in the
tourist business.

Handout B:          Proposed Law

     The spring Twin Cheeks town meeting agenda includes a
highly controversial item to ban motorized rentals on the
lake and within the town borders during the summer vacation
months.  The bill was proposed by Twin Cheeks summer
residents who find the snarling engines of mopeds and
seaplanes disruptive to the tranquil atmosphere they sought
when they bought houses there.  The summer residents also
find the seaplane takeoffs and landings, and the rented
motorboat traffic, dangerous to bathers, people fishing,
canoeists, and sailboaters.
     Most year-round residents oppose the new law and favor
the new rental businesses.  They see tourism providing new
jobs in a chronically underemployed town.  The new business
owners also oppose the bill, because it would undermine
their trade.

Handout C:           Suggested Roles

1.   OWNER OF SEAPLANE RIDES.  He or she points out that the
     rides attract people to Thome Lake in the summer.
     These tourists buy things in stores, eat in
     restaurants, rent rooms in motel and cottages, and
     provide jobs for local families.  This person is
     opposed to the new law.

2.   YEAR-ROUND RESIDENT.  This lady has spent her life
     savings to buy a house on the lake to escape the clamor
     of city life.  The seaplane traffic - a takeoff or
     landing every twenty minutes - has turned her quiet
     retreat into a busy airport that creates not only noise
     but also wave that slam her fishing canoe against the
     dock.  She favors the new law.

3.   OWNER OF TIM'S MACHINE SHOP.  Tim is a year-round
     resident who repairs motorboat engines for people who
     use powerboats on the lake.  He is opposed to the new

4.   UNEMPLOYED LUMBERWORKER.  He has been unable to find
     work since the lumber industry began its slump five
     years ago.  His eldest daughter recently found a summer
     job at Bertha's Moped Rental.  The income really helps
     the family make ends meet.  He is opposed to the new

     that since the mopeds started clogging up Center
     Street, no one wants to eat at her outdoor restaurant.
     She is losing business and has had to lay off three
     waitresses.  She favors the new law.

6.   YEAR-ROUND RETIRED RESIDENT.  She complains that the
     seaplanes are scaring away the fish.  She used to fish
     all summer long, which really saved on grocery bills.
     Now, without the fish, she and her retired husband have
     to spend more money on food.  She favors the new law.


     Students are read Handout A.  The teacher leads the
class in a whole-group brainstorm of what the town is like.
The description of the town is fleshed-out with particular
emphasis on what issues might confront its citizens.
     Students are read Handout B.  The discussion focuses on
what arguments might be made in favor and against the law.
     Students are given their own copies of Handouts A, B,
and C, and each is given a particular role.  Students are
assigned to write a 200 word description of their role's
background, needs and arguments for or against the proposed

     Students are assigned to groups of six or smaller for
small-group town meetings, with each group having only one
person from each role.  Each group has appointed a
discussion leader and a recorder.  Other than that, each
member has one vote at the time any vote is taken.  The
recorder will record the names of each participant and any
formal actions the group takes.  The recorder does not need
to record discussion.
     If, as the teacher monitors individual group progress,
it seems that the groups will "finish" early in the period,
the teacher will give the town meetings a time limit, and
reassign participants to new groups attempting to group
"powerful" people together and quieter people together.
Again, however, each group has only one person from each
role in it.  Leaders and recorders are again appointed.
     The last third of the period is given a two-minute
warning and then recorders make their reports:  What actions
were taken.
     The teacher leads the class in discussion of the
process they have just completed.  How were decisions made?
What were individual feelings as their meetings progressed?
Did they feel their rights or needs were respected?  In
particular, did the majority respect the needs of the
minority; did the minority disrupt the action of the
majority?  What influence did a person's own experience and
orientation have on his or her role in the simulation:  Was
each able to successfully take on the role of another?

ADDITIONAL ACTIVITIES:  Students will either:
1.   Write a set of discussion guidelines for another group
     simulation which would be more democratic and efficient
     than the process they participated in.
2.   Find at least one local issue which has vested roles
     and explain the issue and at least four of the vested

Adapted by Tim Oliver from Government in America (Houghton


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