Illinois Civics Mentor Institute Recap: Days 3 and 4

by Barb Laimins, Illinois Democracy School Mentor

Presentations by Mikva Challenge and the Constitutional Rights Foundation proved that civic education can provide students engaging, fun, and crystalizing experiences on day three and four of the Democracy Mentor Training. Service learning activities and simulations demonstrated by both organizations are truly valuable methods in a teacher’s tool box that allow students to develop schemas of life long civic dispositions and engagement.

The Constitutional Rights Foundation (CRFC) has developed multiple simulations of hearings, town hall meetings and moot court scenarios that challenge students to think about issues from multiple perspectives in order to draw informed conclusions and raise thinking to a new level of understanding. The CRFC has an extensive library of free lessons that allow the terms in a text book come to life and multiple opportunities for professional development.

Everyone gained a deeper understanding of Service Learning through the presentation by Mikva Challenge. While volunteerism is valuable to both the community and students, Civic engagement through service learning allows students to utilize their academic skills and knowledge to address issues in their school and community. The process of inquiry, action and reflection transforms students into participatory citizens who advocate for change. Project Soap Box and the Root Cause Activity are part of the Issues to Action curriculum that encourages students to tap into their passions on topics that are relevant to them.

Mentors left at the conclusion of the training invigorated and energized to spread the word that “Civics is Back” at future civic professional development opportunities throughout the state.

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