The Year Ahead

Jan 15, 2014 / 2014 National Finals, 60-Second Civics, American Civic Education Teacher Awards, Announcements, Citizens, Not Spectators, Civitas International Programs, Constitution Day, Lesson Plans, We the People
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It should be an exciting year for the Center and for civic education in the United States as more Americans awaken to the realization that our nation’s future depends on the informed participation of citizens in local, state, and national government. This year will include two We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution national competitions, a new We the People middle school ebook, a Project Citizen National Showcase, Constitution Day, and the November elections.

The Center continues to spearhead national efforts to promote an enlightened citizenry committed to democratic principles. The Center’s nationally recognized civic education programs, particularly We the People and Project Citizen, will be taught in each state in 2014. The first two months of the year are packed with We the People state competitions, where students display their knowledge of the Constitution. Winners of the state competitions proceed to the National Finals in Washington, D.C. A summary of this year’s events appears below. You can find a detailed listing of state competitions, institutes, and trainings on our calendar.

January

During the week of January 20, teachers nationwide will introduce their students to the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement with the Center’s lessons for grades 7-12. With Martin Luther King Jr. and the Power of Words, students learn how words have the power to bring about political, social, or economic change in society.

Students using the We the People: The Citizen & the Constitution enhanced ebook can watch an excerpt of King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, which begins Lesson 29. Lesson 35 of the ebook, “How Have Civil Rights Movements Resulted in Fundamental Political and Social Change in the United States?” examines how political and social movements have used the Declaration of Independence and Fourteenth Amendment to effect fundamental political and social change. A downloadable pdf of this lesson is available from the Center’s Martin Luther King Jr. page.

February

February is Black History Month, and the Center offers five downloadable lessons for grades 6-12 that focus on the civil rights movement and the power of nonviolence. Teachers can choose from lessons on the Children’s March of 1963, the costs and benefits of nonviolence, philosophical and tactical nonviolence, and Rosa Parks and the Fourteenth Amendment.

Americans celebrate Presidents’ Day on February 17 this year, providing social studies educators an opportunity to teach the executive branch and the extent and limits of its power. The Center’s classroom-ready lessons for elementary, middle, and high school students examine executive power and explore the presidencies of George Washington, James Madison, Abraham Lincoln, and Ronald Reagan.

The Moroccan Center for Civic Education will host “Educating Youth for Democratic Futures,” an international conference on education for democratic citizenship, from February 26 to March 1. Registration is open to international educators through the end of January.

March

Women’s History Month is celebrated in March. The Center offers a lesson on the Equal Rights Amendment for students in grades 7-12 and two activities submitted by teachers. Women’s History Month Word Clouds, by Jim Bentley, invites students to create word clouds using primary-source documents. Women’s History Wax Museum, by Daphne Greene, engages each student in researching the life of a person who took part in the woman suffrage movement and then asks the student to play the role of the activist in a simulated wax museum.

March 17 is the deadline to apply for the Supreme Court Summer Institute, sponsored by Street Law, Inc., and the Supreme Court Historical Society. Secondary-level social studies teachers and supervisors will spend six days on Capitol Hill and inside the Supreme Court learning about the Court and how to teach Supreme Court cases.

April

April 1 is the deadline to apply for the American Civic Education Teacher Awards, which are sponsored by the Center for Civic Education, the Center on Congress at Indiana University, and the National Education Association. ACETA recognizes educators who have demonstrated a special expertise in teaching about the U.S. Constitution, Congress, and public policy. Each year the ACETA program selects and showcases three teachers who have done exemplary work in preparing young people to become informed and engaged citizens. Applications for the award will be distributed by March. Winners are announced in June.

The Second Annual We the People National Invitational will be held April 4-8 at George Mason University in Virginia. Open to middle and high school classes from across the country, the invitational provides an opportunity for students to compete on their knowledge of the Constitution in a university setting and explore Washington, D.C.

April 15 is the deadline to apply for the American Lawyers Alliance’s 2014 Law-Related Education Teacher of the Year Awards. The awards honor middle and high school teachers who have made significant contributions in the area of law-related education. Each of three winners receives a $1,500 cash award.

The 27th Annual We the People National Finals will take place April 25-28 on the campus of George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, and in hearing rooms on Capitol Hill. This event is the highlight of many students’ high school experience, testing their understanding of the Constitution and American government.

May

May 1 is Law Day, which gives civics, government, and social studies educators an opportunity to teach about the contribution of law to our society. This year’s theme is American Democracy and the Rule of Law: Why Every Vote Matters. Perfect for this year’s theme, the Center offers free, downloadable voter education lessons for grades 4-12 through its Citizens, Not Spectators program, which demystifies the voting process through engaging, hands-on activities and a culminating simulated election.

June

An enhanced ebook edition of Center’s middle school-level We the People: The Citizen & the Constitution textbook is scheduled to be released this month. This new and revised edition will contain additional content, including interactive exercises, biographies, terms, and resources to enhance students’ study of the Constitution. For more information, contact Mark Gage, Director of Publishing and Digital Content, at gage@civiced.org or 818-591-9321.

June 22 will be the five-year anniversary of 60-Second Civics, the Center’s daily podcast and quiz. Many teachers use 60-Second Civics to get their civics, government, or U.S. history class engaged as a warmup activity. As a class, teachers can have their students listen to the brief podcasts and then evaluate what they’ve learned with the Daily Civics Quiz. If you like the podcast and appreciate what it brings to your classroom, please consider making a donation to keep 60-Second Civics going.

July

Independence Day, July 4, is a time to remember and appreciate our heritage of a democratic form of government and to reflect on our country’s fundamental principles. What Fundamental Ideas about Government Do Americans Share? is a lesson for high school students and youth groups. It is designed to respond to Thomas Jefferson’s call to “educate…the whole mass of the people” and George Mason’s call to refer to fundamental principles. The lesson concludes with an opportunity to add one’s signature to those of the Founders of this nation who signed the original documents.

The Project Citizen National Showcase will be held in mid-July this year. State programs from around the country will submit exemplary student portfolios for evaluation. The portfolios are created during the school year by middle-grade students and youth organizations. Students analyze local issues within their school, community, or state and present public policy solutions to address their selected problem. Achievement-level results are based on the average score of three rounds of portfolio evaluation. Watch the Project Citizen Facebook page for the news and results from this year’s National Showcase.

August

August kicks off the back-to-school season, with We the People and Project Citizen teachers gearing up for the year ahead. Users of the 2009 edition of We the People: The Citizen & the Constitution will find the We the People Resource Center a useful online tool for understanding the core concepts of the book. We the People students will find Unit and Lesson Purposes and the Terms and Concepts to Understand, and links to primary sources, Supreme Court cases, multimedia, and helpful websites related to the content.

Users of the groundbreaking 2014 We the People: The Citizen & the Constitution enhanced ebook have all of these features and many more, such as challenging multiple-choice and essay exercises, built right into their ebook, which can be accessed from any device.

Both editions are aligned to the Common Core State Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies.

September

In 2009, Congress designated September 11 as a National Day of Service and Remembrance. Secondary-level students can learn about the 9/11 attacks and the nation’s response with a series of four lessons, 9/11 and the Constitution: On American Identity, Diversity, and Common Ground. The lessons challenge students to reflect upon who they are as Americans, examine Americans’ most fundamental values and principles and affirm their commitment  to them, evaluate progress toward the realization of American ideals, and propose actions that might narrow the gap between these ideals and reality.

September 17 is Constitution Day, which commemorates the creation and signing of the Constitution and honors and celebrates the privileges and responsibilities of U.S. citizenship. Federal law requires that all schools receiving federal funds hold an educational program for their students on September 17 of each year, and the Center offers a wide selection of free Constitution Day lesson plans for grades K-12. If you enjoy using our lessons, consider making a donation to help us keep offering them in the future.

October

As the election season approaches, October is the perfect time to prepare your students for their roles as informed voters with Citizens, Not Spectators, the Center’s voter education curriculum for upper elementary, middle, and high school students created by the Center with the support of the Arsalyn Program of the Ludwick Family Foundation. The program teaches students how to cast a vote, how the voting process works, how to become an informed voter, and why it is important to cast an informed vote. Many teachers time their participation in the program to culminate in a simulated election, held either the week before the general election on Tuesday, October 28, or on Election Day itself, November 4.  It’s easy to get involved: simply visit the Lesson Plans page, select your grade level, and download our free, printable lesson plans.

November

November isn’t only about turkey and stuffing: it also marks the start of We the People state finals competitions. Between mid-November and early January, about a thousand students will have showcased their constitutional knowledge before panels of judges in simulated congressional hearings at the state level. Winners of state competitions qualify to compete in the 28th Annual We the People National Finals, which will be held in the spring of 2015.

The best way to keep up with state finals competitions is to follow the Center’s Facebook and Twitter feeds, where updates and photos are posted every week.

December

December 15 is Bill of Rights Day, which falls on a Monday this year. The Center offers several lessons for high school students that are useful in teaching the Bill of Rights and the fundamental principles behind it. What Does Returning to Fundamental Principles Mean? presents a series of quandaries that represent many great ideas and principles that have shaped our constitutional heritage. In a series of exercises, students apply principles and ideas to a contemporary issue and then take a position and defend their judgments. In To Amend or Not to Amend, students are asked to examine proposed amendments to the Constitution, analyze them for public policy triggering mechanisms, and compare and contrast them to the Bill of Rights and other amendments that have been ratified. In Historical Analysis of Constitutional Amendments, students examine one of six key amendments to the Constitution while considering their historical context. They then create timelines for each amendment that are later combined to fully evaluate and interpret how the Constitution has evolved within its historical context. What Conflicting Opinions Did the Framers Have about the Completed Constitution? describes the objections of Elbridge Gerry and George Mason to the Constitution, which originally lacked a bill of rights, and Benjamin Franklin’s defense of it.

How You Can Help

Have you been impressed with the knowledge of We the People students? Do you want even more students to benefit from the Center’s curricular materials in 2015? You can help our nation’s students get the civic education they deserve by giving to support civic education. It’s a great way to end the year!

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