George Lucas Educational Foundation

Connecting Students with the World at Large

Connecting Students with the World at Large

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Jackie Lacey with student
Jackie Lacey, LA County District Attorney, with Greg Eng, 11th Grader

I am a San Marino High School (CA) social studies teacher who for the past fifteen years has aligned my US Government course curriculum to the California State Content Standards.  Additionally, I have incorporated into each of my classes discussions of current local, national, and international news and events.

To deepen student understanding, I created the SMHS Civic Learning Meet and Greet Program where students enrolled in my US Government class have opportunities to hear and learn from individuals appearing in either the textbook or the newspaper and who are connected to the subjects of government, law, history, politics, and education.

A typical “Meet and Greet” is designed to last no more that 50 minutes. It is formatted similar to that of a television talk show with the host, sometimes a student, sometimes the editor-in-chief of our town's local newspaper, and sometimes me, opening the “Meet and Greet” by asking a number of introductory questions before giving the students a chance to ask questions of their own.

Most often, speakers appear in person before the class for the interview, though on occasion, guests have also been interviewed remotely via speakerphone and/or videoconference call.

Suggested guidelines if you want to bring the Civic Learning Meet and Greet Program to your school:

1. Invite your guest to speak before one class of students only. Most individuals are more than open to a no-more-than one hour time commitment. And if you teach multiple periods of US Government, as I do, I simply brief the other classes in detail afterwards as to how things went. In the alternative, you could videotape the Meet and Greet and then share it with your other periods.

2. Consider having your host ask the introductory questions appearing below:

  • Briefly describe what you do for a living?
  • What is the best and worst parts of your job
  • Regarding your work, of what accomplishment are you most proud?
  • Where did you go to high school? While a senior in high school, what did you tell people you wanted to be when you grew up?

3.  Ensure that your students ask high quality follow-up questions. To do so, I suggest first going to the internet to learn everything you can about your guest, then drafting the follow-up questions, taking what you learned on the internet and what you cover in class into account. Then I also suggest sharing the questions you’ve drafted with your students, checking to see if any of your students would like to be the one to ask one or more of these questions. Additionally, I would suggest giving your students a chance to create follow-up questions of their own. I prefer to have students show me their questions for my approval before being given a go, as I’m not a big fan of letting students ask follow-up questions that haven’t been first cleared with me (although this is not a line-in-the-sand requirement.)

Individuals who have participated in a Civic Learning Meet and Greet include:

  • Alan Jackson (prosecuting attorney, Phil Spector murder trial)
  • Alan Steinbrecher (President, LA Bar Association)
  • Ben Bradlee (Editor-in-Chief Washington Post) via meeting after Distinguished Speaker presentation in Pasadena
  • Bill Clinton (President); via meeting after Cal Tech presentation
  • Carol Liu (CA State Senator)
  • Carl Douglas (Attorney, OJ Simpson)
  • Daniel Schnur (Director, Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics, USC)
  • Dave Gordon (Superintendent, Sacramento County School District) via speakerphone
  • Donald Segretti, (Watergate figure)
  • Dorothy Nelson (U.S. 9th Circuit Judge); via in chambers meeting
  • Ed Chau (CA State Assemblyman)
  • G. Gordon Liddy (Watergate figure) via speakerphone
  • Gregory Lee Johnson (Petitioner: Texas v. Johnson) via speakerphone
  • Jackie Lacey (Los Angeles County District Attorney)
  • John Schaefer (City Manager, former Chief of Police, SM)
  • Kim McLane Wardlaw (U.S. 9th Circuit Judge)
  • Manny Medrano (celebrity lawyer)
  • Mark Geragos (celebrity lawyer)
  • Michael Newdow (Petitioner: Newdow vs. Elk Grove Unified School District) via videoconference
  • Mike Eng (CA Assemblyman)
  • Ming Chin (1st ever Asian appointed to CA State Supreme Court)
  • Norma McCorvey (Petitioner: Roe v. Wade) via speakerphone

A sampling of follow-up questions asked by students includes:

  • Ben Bradlee: Who was Deep Throat?
  • Carl Douglas: Do you think the criminal justice system discriminate against African-Americans? Do you think OJ Simpson murdered his ex wife and the Mezzaluna waiter Ron Goldman.
  • G. Gordon Liddy: You were convicted of burglary, conspiracy and refusing to testify to the Senate committee investigating Watergate and consequently served nearly fifty-two months in federal prison. Do you think you were punished fairly? How do you feel about President Ford’s pardon of Richard Nixon?
  • Jackie Lacey: Do you support California Proposition 47, the proposition that sought to redefine some nonviolent offenses as misdemeanors, rather than felonies, as they had previously been categorized? Do you think marijuana should be legalized for recreational purposes?
  • Michael Newdow: Aside from your belief that recitations of the current version of the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools in the United States should be declared unconstitutional because of its inclusion of the phrase "under God" do you also believe that the phrase “in God we trust” should be removed from our paper currency?
  • Norma McCorvey: Long before the US Supreme Court ruled in your favor in the case of Roe v. Wade, you gave birth to a baby that was placed for adoption. Have you ever been reunited with that child; any interest? Do you think minor females should be required to get parental consent to have an abortion?


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Comments (11) Sign in or register to comment Follow Subscribe to comments via RSS

Peter Paccone's picture
Peter Paccone
9-12th Grade Social Studies Teacher - San Marino High School

In all my years of teaching, only one person has ever asked to be compensated - a nationally acclaimed lawyer who I am sure you have heard of.

All the rest have participated in my Meet and Greets for free - but probably because I only ask for no more than an hour commitment. Plus, the ability for people to connect remotely with a class helps matters greatly. Last but not least, what I also find helpful is alerting your potential guest to the fact that you've come up with at least one question that is timely and which you can't find on the internet or in some book.

If you can come up with a question like this, I think you will find doors opening wide.

I would be more than willing to to give you a few examples of the kinds of questions I'm talking about if you would like?

Laura Bradley, MA, NBCT's picture
Laura Bradley, MA, NBCT
Middle school English/Digital Design/Broadcast Media teacher

What a fabulous way to make your subject matter come alive for your students! I am really impressed. How do you approach your potential guests? Do you have a set method for contacting them, or does it depend on who they are? Have you had some kind of connection with them, or are they really willing to speak to any classroom? Thanks for sharing your program - it's great!

Don Doehla, MA, NBCT's picture
Don Doehla, MA, NBCT
2015 California Language Teacher of the Year, Co-Director Berkeley WL Project at UC Berkeley Language Center

I can only just affirm what others have said - wonderful! Thanks for sharing this idea, and especially with specifics which I am sure will inspire others to make a difference in kids lives. You are an inspiration, Peter, and I am sure your students will remember their time in your classes for a very long time. Perhaps they too will one day give back by returning to your class for another group of students who will be inspired to aspire to make a difference.

Best wishes,


Peter Paccone's picture
Peter Paccone
9-12th Grade Social Studies Teacher - San Marino High School

I have a template of a letter I drafted some time ago. First chance I get, I'll send a copy.

As for your other question - most I had never met and/or had contact with. On the other hand, the school I teach at is well know, so I'm sure that this makes a difference. Then again, you just never know whether a particular guest will want to connect with your school until you ask. My experience - guests seem to enjoy the experience.

Peter Paccone's picture
Peter Paccone
9-12th Grade Social Studies Teacher - San Marino High School

For anyone interested in creating a Civic Learning Meet and Greet Program of your own, I'm including below a copy of a letter that you might want to use as a model if/when inviting your Meet and Greet guests.

This particular letter was was written and sent out by one of my students (Greg Eng) to Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey.


The Honorable Jackie Lacey
Los Angeles County District Attorney
District Attorney's Office
County of Los Angeles
210 West Temple Street, Suite 18000
Los Angeles, CA 90012-3210

Dear Ms. Lacey

My name is Gregory Eng and I am a San Marino High School junior and one of three attorney's on our school's Mock Trial Team.

I'm writing today because I am wondering if you would be willing to come to the high school at a time of your choosing to participate in what we call our Civic Learning Meet and Greet Program.

The Civic Learning Meet and Greet Program is designed to provide our students, teachers, staff, administrators, and parents with a chance to hear and learn from a leader in the field of history, law, government, politics and/or education.

A typical Meet and Greet is scheduled to last no more than 55 minutes and is formatted along the lines of a television talk show in which the host (this semester it will be me) kicks off the show with a number of introductory questions.

Then the host gives the audience members a chance to ask several follow-up questions. My guess is that you could expect the mock trial team members to ask at least the following:

* Do you support California Proposition 47, the proposition that sought to redefine some nonviolent offenses as misdemeanors, rather than felonies, as they had previously been categorized?
* Do you think marijuana should be legalized for recreational purposes?
* Do you have any great words of advice for girls on the mock trial team who are interested in following in your footsteps?

A sampling of those who since 2006 have participated in our high school's Civic Learning Meet and Greet Program include

* Mark Geragos (celebrity lawyer)
* Manny Medrano (celebrity lawyer)
* Ming Chin (1st ever Asian appointed to CA State Supreme Court)
* Gregory Lee Johnson (Texas v. Johnson)
* Carol Liu (CA State Senator)
* Norma McCorvey (Roe v. Wade)
* Jack Zebrowski (CA State Appellate Court Judge)
* Kim McLane Wardlaw (U.S. 9th Circuit Judge)
* Alan Steinbrecher (President, LA Bar Association)
* John Schaeffer (Chief of Police, San Marino)

I'm very much looking forward to hearing from you soon.


Gregory Eng
SMHS Junior

PS: Our mock trial teacher-coach is named Peter Paccone. He's also a Social Studies teacher here at SMHS and a California Civic Learning Task Force member.

If you are interested in participating in one of our Meet and Greets, please contact Mr. Paccone directly to arrange for a day and time.

Mr. Paccone can be reached at

San Marino High School
2701 Huntington Drive
San Marino, CA 91108

Laura Bradley, MA, NBCT's picture
Laura Bradley, MA, NBCT
Middle school English/Digital Design/Broadcast Media teacher

Thanks so much! That's a great sample letter. I like how the student explains the visit in detail, including potential questions to answer. Well done!

Grant Lichtman's picture
Grant Lichtman
Author, speaker, facilitator, "Chief Provocateur"

Great program! Here is a twist, offered by a student I interacted with at a high school in Atlanta (Anya Smith @pinyabananas): find a guest speaker who is completely comfortable with NO prepared comments; where the burden of questioning is on the students, and the burden of the speaker is on responding to what the students ask and care about. A filter we might think about: if we are bringing in speakers who need a teacher to tee up the discussion, is that telling us something? Might this be an even richer learning experience if the students were tasked with brainstorming, approving, finding, and contacting people who they are interested in interacting with? Does this take more time? Yes; but the skill set the students will practice are those we know they need in the real world.

Good stuff!

Peter Paccone's picture
Peter Paccone
9-12th Grade Social Studies Teacher - San Marino High School

Hello Grant

I've been giving your comment a lot of thought. See below for my thinking at this point in time.

In the Common Core Era, it is my opinion that students should be allowed to make some choices and have some voice in re their work, though this is not to suggest that the role of the teacher is to be viewed as simply a "facilitator" or "guide-on-the-side" (someone who rarely interacts with the students and is expected to remain "neutral" when it comes to all-important decisions that students need to make.)

To the contrary, I think that projects in the Common Core era all but require a teacher to have a say in the student work, for a Common Core Project in my opinion is both a student and teacher directed project (a truly collaborative effort.) And certainly in the initial stages of the project.

To put it another way, I think that with Common Core Project, students will increasingly view their teacher as a Tutor/Mentor/Coach (TMC).

In the role of tutor, the teacher will not hesitate to lecture, model, and/or instruct (aka act as the sage-on- the-stage.)

In the role of mentor, the teacher will not hesitate to act as an experienced and trusted adviser.

And, in the role of coach, the teacher will not hesitate to call the plays.

So to respond to your question more directly - I'm not a real fan of the kind of suggestion your making, though I understand and can appreciate the thought behind it.

Certainly I keep hearing that in the Common Core Era student work should be increasingly student-directed.

In any event, I want to sincerely thank you for your thoughts; you've definitely given me something to think about.

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