American History and Civics Academies

This academy is a grand slam from the students' perspective and the teachers' perspective! The dynamic taking place between the teachers and between the students and all the combinations thereof has made for and continues to make for the most powerful, engaging, and valuable seminar that I have been to in my thirty-year career.
—Presidential Academy participant

The Center's free American History and Civic Academies provided teachers and students with high-quality educational engagement. The experience significantly enhanced students' civic dispositions related to political interest and attention, political discussion, community engagement, government service, civic duty, and trust in government. Research from the Civic Education Research Lab at Georgetown University demonstrates that students' knowledge of history and civics improved, especially among Title I school students. Keep reading to learn more about this program.


Program Information

What Were the Presidential and Congressional Academies?

The Presidential Academy for secondary school teachers and the Congressional Academy for high-need students immersed participants in the study of constitutional history and principles following the intellectual framework of the We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution curriculum. 

The Academies began with a summer institute in conjunction with exemplary scholars and mentor teachers, as can be seen in the 2019 Presidential Academy agenda and the 2019 Congressional Academy agenda. Academies participants also had the opportunity to collaborate with their peers and participate in highly interactive discussions and activities, including a simulated congressional hearing. Learning was enhanced with virtual field trips to National Park Service and other historical sites. 

Engagement among teachers and students continued during the academic year following the initial institute. The Center also hosted online discussion forums for teachers and for students to continue peer conversation as they engage in history and civics activities at their schools. Four webinars were offered after the summer institute to extend the teachers' professional development and benefit students and the general public. 

This opportunity was offered to students and teachers throughout the United States made possible with a grant from the U.S. Department of Education and matching funds.

What Scholars Participated in the Presidential Academy? 

- The Honorable Susan Leeson, Associate Justice, Oregon Supreme Court (retired)

Dr. Jack Barlow, Professor Political Science, Juniata College

Dr. Francene Engel

Dr. Vikram Amar, Dean, University of Illinois, College of Law


What Scholars Participated in the Congressional Academy? 

- GlyptusAnn Grider-Jones, PR & Research Coordinator, McConnell Center

- Dr. Joseph Stewart, Professor of Political Science, Clemson University

- Christopher Riano, JD, President, Center for Civic Education

- Dr. David Hudson, Professor of Law, Belmont University

Who Participated?

This opportunity was for high school American history or civics teachers and high school students, going into eleventh or twelfth grade in the Fall of 2021. In order to meet grant priorities, preference was given to teachers who work with high-need students and student applicants who are high-need. Teachers were selected from secondary schools that offer strong administrative support for work with high-need students.

When Was the 2021 Institute?

The summer institute took place online from Monday, July 5 to Friday, July 23, 2021. It included numerous live sessions with scholars, mentor teachers, and peers as well as asynchronous academic work outside of the live sessions. In addition, Presidential Academy teachers had access to four hour-long follow-up webinars with scholars in August and September 2021.

Congressional Academy 2019

What Did Participants Gain?

- Learning with exemplary history and political science scholars and mentor teachers

- Engagement in research, public speaking, and a congressional hearing simulation

- Interaction with peers from across the country

- Free virtual field trips to National Park Service and historical sites

- Free institute materials and a stipend

What Were the Expectations of Participation?

Presidential Academy teachers engaged with a rich community of teacher-scholars from throughout the United States. Teachers participated in the virtual three-week summer institute at the same time as Congressional Academy students, though the Presidential and Congressional Academy sessions were separate. After the summer institute, teachers engaged in online outreach and follow-up activities with scholars that will benefit their school communities. They participated in an online discussion forum and four online webinars.Presidential Academy 2019 They engaged with other teachers and students at their schools to organize history and civics activities. An academic year “project” (deliverable) included—but was not limited to—a plan to conduct a simulated hearing in the classroom, adapting lessons and activities from the summer institute for your classroom, and providing aid to students who participated in the summer institute in their presentations to school and/or parent leaders.

Congressional Academy student-scholars participated in a virtual three-week summer institute at the same time as participants in the Presidential Academy. They also engaged in follow-up activities during the school year and continued to interact with fellow participants in a student online discussion forum. Students worked with other students and teachers at their school to organize or participate in a history or civics activity. This included—but is not limited to—participating in the We the People program or National History Day, preparing a PowerPoint presentation to share with the class on the most interesting aspect of the Academy, preparing a presentation to share with the administration of the school and others at a school board meeting or a Parent-Teacher Association meeting, and helping their teacher prepare their classmates to take part in a congressional hearing.

What Costs were Covered?

The Academies were free for participants! The costs for the Academy were covered by the grant, in addition to generous donations received from throughout the country.


For additional information about the American History & Civics Academies, please contact Maria Gallo at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or Alissa Irion-Groth at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


To support future programs that provide teachers and students with a valuable and dynamic experience, consider donating through our donate page.


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