The Michigan Student Caucus (MSC) Card Deck
The following guide is for a deck of cards created to support in-class activity related to the Michigan Student Caucus. You can purchase MSC Card Decks through Makeplayingcards.com, or download a PDF version.
The purpose behind the MSC card deck is to provide an introductory exercise that helps students empathize with people who have had different life experiences from their own, and that also helps them frame generative questions about potential challenges they might face. It can be used as an exercise in itself, or as a first step toward participating in the MSC.
What’s MSC about, anyway?
MSC is centered on the idea of civic engagement, and building a sense of agency among young people in Michigan. MSC participants join a kind of online shadow legislature in which they craft proposals meant to address issues of concern to students of all ages in our state. Typically working in small teams, students create a “proposal” that reflects thought and research of a variety of types, sometimes focusing on issues of concern at their school or in their community, but more often looking at broader issues across the state.
The purpose of our work on the MSC website is to expand the perspective of the participants, looking at an array of issues in the state from a variety of angles. However, we have found that for the college student participants, as well as those in high school and middle school, the key initial step of learning about and developing empathy for the experiences of people whose lives are very different from ours is an important and challenging first step towards richer engagement with the work of MSC…and that leads to this card deck.
Using the Card Deck
The MSC card deck was created to help students frame a civic issue in a human-centered way, as a first step toward creating their own legislative proposal.
The deck consists of:
Each of the 5 persona cards describes one fictional person who can provides a focus for students as they imagine challenges, interests, and perspectives of people with different backgrounds. They can be considered “practice” for thinking about real people and situations later on as students participate in discussions and proposal-crafting in the MSC.
These cards contain questions that help the students explore what challenges might face the various 5 personas. The cards are divided into three sections.
- RESEARCH (Questions related to gathering factual information & evidence)
- EMPATHIZE (Questions meant to help us see the world from this person’s p.o.v.)
- CONNECT (Who else shares these challenges? What larger issues are relevant?)
We suggest that your students, working in teams, choose one of the personas and spend a day or two engaged in a combination of research and informed speculation about the issues their person might face, based on their life circumstances as portrayed on the persona card. Our hope that having a concrete example to work through will spark ideas for your students, both about potential problems they might want to investigate with their own proposal, and also about the kinds of questions they might ask to get a better sense of the lives and perspectives of others. Ultimately, we hope to enhance your students’ sense of agency, and to help persuade them that they can bring fresh and thoughtful perspectives to the challenge of making life better for people in our state and beyond.
Don’t forget that the first portion of the MSC Teacher’s Guide & Toolkit is also meant to help participants navigate the initial steps of the process, and to generate ideas for issues they might address in their proposal.