Presented by the Constitutional Rights Foundation, my #NCSS14 session two focused on ways to engage students directly with actual issues in their communities through direct civic action.
They suggest that you can turn your government classroom into a hands-on civics lab to teach the workings of government by empowering students.
They shared about their Civics Action Project, a project-based learning strategy designed for government classes. According to the CRF:
Think of it as a culmination of students’ social studies education, a chance for them to apply what they have learned to the real world and impact an issue that matters to them.
Start by teaching three simple lessons that are tied to government/civics content. These lessons provide content that students will need to start their own CAP projects. Once students start working on their own CAP issues, you teach two more lessons that focus on policy analysis.
CAP provides a bundle of additional lessons for you to choose from – based on the needs and interests of your students.
Students could select issues related to school, community, or even national or global issues. CAP students identify an issue or problem that matters to them, connect it to public policy, then take “civic actions” to try to impact their selected issue/problem. It is up to you to limit the scale of the issues they choose.
The key is that you require students to make connections between the foundational content knowledge to actual public policy. Change can happen but it requires three elements:
- citizens who care
- public policy
Delete any of these elements and change can’t happen. I like this. It seems like a great basic structure that students can use to start creating action plans. They also shared a sheet that included four basics needed to create an effective action plan: Knowledege, Skills, Attitudes, Actions of Effective / Engaged Citizens.
They shared a sweet graphic organizer called GRADE that provides some nice scaffolding for students as they analyze public policies. I’ve seen lots of document analysis worksheets, this is the first one that I’ve focusing on current governmental policies.
And, of course, lots of ELA literacy standards and discipline specific skills going on here.
This all sounds like a great way to engage kids and create a nice community service project. Be sure to check out all of their goodies here. (Don’t forget to try some of their student contests that can be used to highlight their work.)