New Jersey Teacher CherylAnne Amendola on the Impact of Project Citizen in Her Classroom

Dec 05, 2018 / E-news

This guest post was provided by teacher CherylAnne Amendola of Montclair Kimberley Academy in Montclair, New Jersey. Amendola was the the 2017 New Jersey History Teacher of the Year.

In 2009, I happened upon the Center for Civic Education’s Project Citizen and I knew that it was a program I had to bring to my 8th grade American History classroom. Over the last decade, Project Citizen has given my students the skills necessary to be politically active citizens, the experience of being involved in a project larger than themselves and their own academics, and the confidence to use their voices in knowing that they can be a part of the change they want to see in their world. Read the rest of this entry »

State Coordinator Profile: Cheryl Cook-Kallio

Nov 16, 2018 / Project Citizen, We the People

In April of this year, Cheryl Cook-Kallio assumed the mantle of state coordinator for the We the People Programs, including both We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution and We the People: Project Citizen.
“My entire adult life has been about civic engagement,” says Cook-Kallio. She began teaching Project Citizen and We the People at the middle school level in the early nineties before she became a James Madison Fellow, which allowed her to increase her constitutional content knowledge and work with Senator Dianne Feinstein and the federal courts. She eventually moved to teaching at the high school level, specifically to teach a We the People competition class.
“All these things led my former and current students to encourage me to run for public office in 2006. I retired from teaching in 2015 after 39 years. I will never retire from encouraging excellent civic education.”
State and congressional district coordinators are responsible for ensuring that students and teachers throughout the United States have access to sets of We the People textbooks, providing exemplary profession, and helping classes conduct simulated congressional hearings. Cook-Kallio has both the hands-on experience and enthusiasm for civic education to excel as the California State Coordinator.
“[We the People and Project Citizen] encourage students to learn for the sake of learning. That is a teacher’s dream,” says Cook-Kallio. She sees the programs as a platform for civil discussion that places value on diversity of opinion based on fact, and these principles are essential in the encouragement of participatory democracy. It makes sense, then, that her favorite Founder is James Madison, who “was a pragmatist. If one suggestion didn’t work, he had another. He had a brilliant political mind and little ego. He was someone who learned for the sake of learning.”

In April of this year, Cheryl Cook-Kallio assumed the mantle of state coordinator for the We the People Programs, including both We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution and We the People: Project Citizen.

“My entire adult life has been about civic engagement,” says Cook-Kallio. She began teaching Project Citizen and We the People at the middle school level in the early nineties before she became a James Madison Fellow, which allowed her to increase her constitutional content knowledge and work with Senator Dianne Feinstein and the federal courts. She eventually moved to teaching at the high school level, specifically to teach a We the People competition class.

“All these things led my former and current students to encourage me to run for public office in 2006. I retired from teaching in 2015 after 39 years. I will never retire from encouraging excellent civic education.”

State and congressional district coordinators are responsible for ensuring that students and teachers throughout the United States have access to sets of We the People textbooks, providing exemplary professional development, and helping classes conduct simulated congressional hearings. Cook-Kallio has both the hands-on experience and enthusiasm for civic education to excel as the California State Coordinator.

“[We the People and Project Citizen] encourage students to learn for the sake of learning. That is a teacher’s dream,” says Cook-Kallio. She sees the programs as a platform for civil discussion that places value on diversity of opinion based on fact, and these principles are essential in the encouragement of participatory democracy. It makes sense, then, that her favorite Founder is James Madison, who “was a pragmatist. If one suggestion didn’t work, he had another. He had a brilliant political mind and little ego. He was someone who learned for the sake of learning.”

Beacon Hill We the People Team Hosts Michigan Senate Candidates

Oct 19, 2018 / E-news

On September 17, two Michigan Senate candidates from Grand Rapids convened at an event at Beacon Hill, a senior living community. They engaged in a public discussion hosted by the Beacon Hill We the People team, who also timed and critiqued the talk.
“It is an amazing testament of how important We the People can be as a conduit of civic knowledge and life-long engagement,” says Ellen Zwarensteyn, the Executive Director of the Michigan Center for Civic Education.
The We the People team in Beacon Hill was established by Deb Snow, a retired We the People teacher who had previously adopted We the People in the Michigan and established a team in 1986 at Kentwood High School.

On September 17, two Michigan Senate candidates from Grand Rapids convened at an event at Beacon Hill at Eastgate, an active retirement community. They engaged in a public discussion hosted by the Beacon Hill We the People team, who also timed and critiqued the talk. Evans DeVries, a retired teacher and We the People coach, moderated the debate between state representatives Winnie Brinks and Chris Afendoulis, who were both vying for the state senate. Students in the class scored the debate independently.

Two Michigan Senate candidates convened for a discussion at Beacon Hill, an assisted living facility.

Two Michigan Senate candidates convened for a discussion at Beacon Hill.

“It is an amazing testament of how important We the People can be as a conduit of civic knowledge and life-long engagement,” says Ellen Zwarensteyn, the executive director of the Michigan Center for Civic Education.

The We the People team in Beacon Hill was established by Deb Snow, a retired We the People teacher who had previously adopted We the People in Michigan and established a team in 1986 at Kentwood High School.

Teachers Advocate for Creation of National Civics Award

Oct 19, 2018 / E-news

The Center receives grant from the Department of EducationSocial studies teachers Michael Martirone and Jenifer Hitchcock are working to elevate social studies and civics in the academic world, and build recognition for the achievements of high school students in civics.
“Civics and social studies have been neglected for far too long as public schools have sought to better prepare students in the areas of science, technology, engineering and math education. We believe that educators have an obligation to ensure that the next generation has an understanding of our country’s history, our democratic process and how to engage with their communities,” say Martirone and Hitchcock.
They seek to work in cooperation with civics organizations and teachers from around the country to reward high school students who can demonstrate understanding of the government by writing an essay about their ability to affect positive change within their community.
For more on these teachers’ advocacy for civics and a national civics award, check out their proposal below:

Social studies teachers Michael Martirone and Jenifer Hitchcock are working to elevate social studies and civics in the academic world, and build recognition for the achievements of high school students in civics.

“Civics and social studies have been neglected for far too long as public schools have sought to better prepare students in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and math education. We believe that educators have an obligation to ensure that the next generation has an understanding of our country’s history, our democratic process and how to engage with their communities,” say Martirone and Hitchcock.

They seek to work in cooperation with civics organizations and teachers from around the country to reward high school students who can demonstrate understanding of the government by writing an essay about their ability to affect positive change within their community.

For more on these teachers’ advocacy for civics and a national civics award, check out their proposal below:

Learn.civiced.org Offers Free Resources for Educators

Oct 18, 2018 / E-news

A new platform is now available for educators and lifelong learners to learn about American constitutional government at learn.civiced.org! Watch scholars in the open course, participate in discussion forms, and explore a variety of learning resources for free.
The We the People Open Course is one resource that offers academic content ranging from the philosophical foundations of the U.S. Constitution through modern interpretation of its ideals. Noted scholars offer insights on history and its application in contemporary times. Other tools, such as free ebooks, lesson plans, and curated primary sources make it easy to teach civics and government, and even easier to learn.
All these resources are free when creating an account. Users can log-in with their email, or by using a Microsoft, Google, or Facebook account.
Keep an eye out for instructor-led courses that are coming soon to the site, bringing esteemed scholars into your classroom to offer new perspectives.

A new platform is now available for educators and lifelong learners to learn about American constitutional government at learn.civiced.org! Watch scholars in the open course, participate in discussion forums, and explore a variety of learning resources for free.

The We the People Open Course offers videos and questions that explore the fundamentals of American representative government, ranging from the philosophical foundations of the U.S. Constitution to the modern interpretation of its ideals. Noted scholars offer insights on history and its application to contemporary times. Other tools, such as free ebooks, lesson plans, and curated primary sources make it easy to teach civics and government, and even easier to learn.

The resources on this platform are free and easily available for classroom use.

The resources on this platform are free and easily available for classroom use.

All these resources are free when creating an account. Users can log in with their Microsoft, Google, or Facebook account.

Keep an eye out for instructor-led courses that are coming soon to the site, bringing esteemed scholars into your classroom to offer new perspectives.

Alumna Asks Wedding Guests to Donate to We the People

Oct 02, 2018 / Alumni, E-news, We the People

Students who compete in simulated congressional hearings as part of the We the People Program bring their everything. They wear matching outfits, bring customized tablecloths, and display stylized name cards. This enthusiasm for the competition comes, in part, from excitement about showing off what they have learned, but also from a passion about skills and knowledge that are applicable outside of the classroom.

“Participating in We the People is when I remember beginning to understand how something I was studying in school translated to work being done in the real world,” says Monica Lee, a We the People alumna. At her September wedding to Daniel Hart, Lee asked for donations to the We the People program. “My immediate and extended family make a concerted effort to seek out opportunities to help other people to make our communities better places, through work at our churches and in our neighborhoods and I wanted to give people an opportunity to do that as part of our wedding celebration.”

As a child, Monica Lee visited Washington, D.C., often with her family. Her father, Dennis Lee, worked as a teacher, volunteered with the We the People program, and served as the Indiana District Coordinator for many years. She participated in the We the People program as an eighth-grader. For Lee, the program fostered in her a deeper understanding of government’s role in the lives of citizens.

She carried this passion for politics on to a career in public service, working as an intern for the 2008 Obama Campaign for President, an intern in the White House in 2009, and a job as a press assistant in the White House Communications Office in 2011. She has been working in political communications as a career ever since.

The We the People program is offered across the country, giving students opportunities to learn about American government through simulated congressional hearings. Volunteer judges ask students questions regarding the Constitution, the Founders, and more, while encouraging students to link history to current-day events. Winners from state competitions qualify to compete at the national level in the National Invitational and the National Finals. These experiences promote a lifelong sense of civic duty and civic engagement in We the People alumni.

As alumna Monica Lee says, “Now more than ever, I think the We the People program is worth people’s time and resources, since it provides at such an important juncture of kids’ education insight into our democracy, which is important regardless of the field of work you go into.”

Are you a We the People program alumni? Get connected with the Center for Civic Education!

Raise Money for Civic Education with Facebook Fundraisers

Sep 20, 2018 / E-news

When you raise money through a Facebook fundraiser, one hundred percent of the funds go to the charity of your choice. This is why so many of our followers have chosen to support the Center for Civic Education for their birthdays this year, but did you know that you can make a Facebook fundraiser on any day of the year?
From your Facebook home page, click on “Fundraisers” and follow the easy steps to set your fundraising goals and select the Center for Civic Education as your nonprofit. For more detailed, step-by-step instructions on how to create a Facebook fundraiser, check out our video tutorial:

When you raise money through a Facebook fundraiser, one hundred percent of the funds go to the charity of your choice. This is why so many of our followers have chosen to support the Center for Civic Education for their birthdays this year, but did you know that you can make a Facebook fundraiser on any day of the year?

From your Facebook home page, click on “Fundraisers” and follow the easy steps to set your fundraising goals and select the Center for Civic Education as your nonprofit. For more detailed, step-by-step instructions on how to create a Facebook fundraiser, check out our video tutorial:

Thanks to everyone who has supported the Center and don’t forget that you can make a donation from the Center’s Facebook page or on our website!

Celebrate Constitution Day on September 17

Sep 05, 2018 / E-news

September 17 is Constitution Day, when we commemorate the creation and signing of the supreme law of the land and to honor and celebrate the privileges and responsibilities of U.S. citizenship for both native-born and naturalized citizens. This year, teach Constitution Day with the Center’s resources!
These resources include the tried-and-true Constitution day lesson plans, with lessons tailored for grades K–12; the 60-Second Civics podcast that offers quick, daily lessons on civics; and, the James Madison Legacy Project videos, now available on YouTube and Facebook, featuring lessons on the creation of Constitution and the ideas within it.

In 1952, President Harry S. Truman signed a bill that moved I Am an American Day from the third Sunday in May to September 17 in order for the holiday to coincide with the signing of the U.S. Constitution in 1787. Congress renamed the holiday Citizenship Day, but in 2005, the holiday was renamed again to Constitution Day and Citizenship Day.

The purpose of Constitution Day and Citizenship Day is to commemorate the creation and signing of the supreme law of the land and to honor and celebrate the privileges and responsibilities of U.S. citizenship for both native-born and naturalized citizens. 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 for Civic Education makes it easy to celebrate!

Using the Center’s tools and resources, students at all grade levels can learn about the Constitution in easy-to-understand ways. These resources include the tried-and-true Constitution day lesson plans, with lessons tailored for grades K–12; the 60-Second Civics podcast that offers quick, daily lessons on civics; and, the James Madison Legacy Project videos, now available on YouTube and Facebook, featuring lessons on the creation of Constitution and the ideas in it.

How are you celebrating Constitution Day this year? Share with us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram using #ConstitutionDay and #centerforciviceducation!

We the People: The Citizen & The Constitution Available in Hardcover

Aug 20, 2018 / E-news

We the People: The Citizen & The Constitution is now available in a durable, high-quality hardcover version for middle and high school teachers and students! Both the student text and their accompanying teacher’s guides are available on the Center for Civic Education’s online store.
The We the People text for middle and high school levels examine the philosophical foundation of American democracy, the rights and responsibilities of citizenship, and how students can participate and influence civic affairs. The books are aligned with state standards, providing the intellectual tools that students need to become informed and engaged citizens through in-depth study of the Constitution.
A free, easy-to-access resource center also accompanies the textbooks, offering a variety of tools that are organized according by lesson and unit. Go to www.civiced.org/resourcecenter for more.
Check out the hardcover books here!

We the People: The Citizen & The Constitution is now available in a durable, high-quality hardcover edition for middle and high school teachers and students! Both the student text (Level 2 and Level 3) and their accompanying teacher’s guides (Level 2 and Level 3) are available on the Center for Civic Education’s online store.

The We the People texts for middle and high school levels examine the philosophical foundation of American democracy, the rights and responsibilities of citizenship, and how students can participate and influence civic affairs. The books are aligned with state standards, providing the intellectual tools that students need to become informed and engaged citizens through in-depth study of the Constitution.

A free, easy-to-access resource center also accompanies the textbooks, offering a variety of tools that are organized according by lesson and unit. Go to www.civiced.org/resourcecenter for more.

Check out the hardcover books here!

We the People Teacher Chris Cavanaugh Wins American Lawyer Alliances’ Teacher of the Year Award

Aug 20, 2018 / E-news, We the People

Christopher Cavanaugh, a We the People teacher who taught at Plainfield High School in Indiana in 2018, is one of this year’s Law-Related Education Teachers of the Year! Awarded annually by the American Lawyers Alliance, this award recognizes teachers who have made significant contributions in the area of law-related education and who have developed programs that help students recognize their civic responsibilities.
This year’s other winners are Daniel Bachman from Massapequa High School in New York and Catherine Ruffing from Centreville High School in Virginia. Winners were chosen from around the country and received $1500, along with $500 for travel expenses. On August 3, 2018, the awards ceremony was held at the University Club of Chicago. While not all of the teachers were able to attend the ceremony, those in attendance spoke eloquently of the civics programs they are continuing to implement in their schools.
Speakers included president of the Indiana State Bar Association, Andrielle Metzel, and executive director of the Indiana Bar Foundation; Charles Dunlap, who spoke on behalf of the Foundation and the We the People program in Indiana; and, president-elect of the Virginia Bar Association, Richard E. Garriott. .
For more information about the Law-Related Education Teachers of the Year and the American Lawyers Alliance, check out their website here!

Christopher Cavanaugh, a We the People teacher who taught at Plainfield High School in Indiana in 2018, is one of this year’s Law-Related Education Teachers of the Year! Awarded annually by the American Lawyers Alliance, this award recognizes teachers who have made significant contributions in the area of law-related education and who have developed programs that help students recognize their civic responsibilities.

We the People teacher Christopher Cavanaugh won the ALAs Law-Related Education Teacher of Year Award.

We the People teacher Christopher Cavanaugh won the ALA's Law-Related Education Teacher of Year Award.

Cavanaugh will be teaching at Bismarck High School in North Dakota this fall. This year’s other winners are Daniel Bachman from Massapequa High School in New York and Catherine Ruffing from Centreville High School in Virginia. Winners were chosen from around the country. On August 3, 2018, the awards ceremony was held at the University Club of Chicago. Although not all of the teachers were able to attend the ceremony, those in attendance spoke eloquently of the civics programs they are continuing to implement in their schools.

Speakers included Andi M. Metzel, president of the Indiana State Bar Association; Charles R. Dunlap, executive director of the Indiana Bar Foundation; and Richard E. Garriott, president-elect of the Virginia Bar Association.

For more information about the Law-Related Education Teachers of the Year and the American Lawyers Alliance, check out their website here!