Starting a Project
A successful civic learning and engagement project follows a process that builds on the steps involved in project-based learning. While the level of expectations may be modified depending on the age and knowledge level of your group, you’ll go through each step whether your students are in elementary, middle or high school.
Step 1: Brainstorm
Using the Brainstorm Civic Engagement Topics tool, engage your group in an open-ended conversation. Ask: What issues in the community concern you the most? As with all brainstorming, the goal is to elicit as many responses as possible.
Step 2: Select an area of concern
Whether by vote or consensus, guide students to select a single area of concern for the group to address. At this point, the concern may be fairly general; for example “not enough for kids to do,” or “the impact of climate change on local flooding.”
For general help and ideas on selecting a project topic, you may want to review the page Understanding Community Needs, which appears earlier in this section.
Step 3: Craft a driving question
A driving question is a tool for focusing a discussion to guide it toward a plan of action. In the case of civic learning and engagement projects, driving questions must also provide focus with the goal of helping students determine a realistic and collaborative plan.
A not-so-great driving question might be “Why do teenagers do drugs?” A better driving question might be, “How can we work with our community council, the parent group and the police department to help teenagers resist getting involved with drugs?” To review what makes a good driving question, click here.