Patriot Games: McConnell Scholars help craft U.S. Senate teaching tool

(Feb. 15, 2015) LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Students researched post-9/11 legislation to provide content for a computer game for the new Edward M. Kennedy Institute in Boston.
Patriot Games: McConnell Scholars help craft U.S. Senate teaching tool

How would you vote on a Senate bill to boost surveillance of suspected terrorist activity if the new law also could curb the civil rights of innocent U.S. citizens?

That’s one issue a group of McConnell Scholars researched while helping create a Patriot Act computer game for the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate in Boston.

The McConnell Center was one of only five places asked to help develop the game to teach students in grades 5-12 how Senate decisions are made. Nine students worked on the project for months outside of class. GlyptusAnn Grider Jones, public relations coordinator for the Center, directed the project.

“The institute gave us a game shell and asked us to supply content,” said Sean Southard, an Owensboro senior majoring in political science and history. “Most of us were in second or third grade when 9/11 happened, so we had to do a lot of digging on how the government formed the Department of Homeland Security.”

Each player will adopt a real senator’s persona and sit at his or her seat in a full-scale replica of the U.S. Senate Chamber. As the game unfolds, players will choose from options presented on a touch-screen computer.

“At the end of the game,” they’ll cast their vote and then they’ll get to see how the real senator voted,” Southard said.

The Edward M. Kennedy Institute, a new 68,000-square-foot civic engagement center being built next to the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, is scheduled to open in March.