November 18, 2019
Some students find school-day learning about government and civics to be dry as dust, and it’s no wonder. Studying the three branches of the U.S. government, the Electoral College and tariffs on trade with other countries can seem pretty remote from young people’s everyday lives. They might not know how federal, state, and local policies are made, or how those policies can affect things that matter to them, like social justice, clean air, and the price of groceries and video games. Also, they might not know how to make their voices heard. Here are some ideas to help you brush the dust off to make civics interesting.
Use Y4Y resources. See the Introduction section of the Project-Based Learning course and the Introduction to Civic Learning and Engagement Training to Go for ideas on connecting with local civics activities. Service learning and citizen science also offer entries into local, real-world policies in action. See the Citizen Science course and the Service-Learning Toolbox.
Engage students in virtual-hands-on activities. Take advantage of game-based activities to introduce cross-disciplinary learning and thinking as students encounter and grapple with problems related to science, ecology, history, agriculture and government. Choose from a group of virtual environments funded by grants from the Institute of Education Sciences. You can also explore civics, social activism and world governments through virtual tours, primary documents, and connections with students from around the world. Common Sense Education has collected links to 30 Best Government and Civics Websites and Games, all created by government, education and civic sponsors.
Recruit local partners and experts to bring civics to your site. Start by gathering student voice data on social issues that interest them. The Student Voice podcast in Y4Y’s Developing a Needs Assessment Click & Go offers tips on this step. Then find experts to help students explore one or more of these issues. The local chapter of the American Bar Association, a nearby law school or professors at a local college might help conduct a mock trial. Local advocacy organizations or individuals might help students explore an issue or event and conduct a reenactment. Local writers and theater groups might help facilitate student development of a play, video or other event related to a social issue or historical event. When it comes to civics, your neighborhood is a real-world textbook that offers plenty of teachable moments.