Students Address Daylight Savings Through Service Learning

by Mary Ellen Daneels and Logan Ridenour

This past July, the Civics Is Back newsletter featured Logan Ridenour from Carlinville High School, an Illinois Democracy School, for their service learning project to end Daylight Savings in Illinois. Logan credited he Civics Is Back professional development workshops he has attended over the years, incorporating tools such as Root Cause Tree Analysis to “tweak” his Civic Action Project. Logan explained, “All of my students, including this group, have said they enjoy the project because it is very student-centered, and it allows them to explore their connections to the community and the processes necessary for enacting change. My students learned that they can put things into action by furthering their own understanding of the systems that govern their lives.” At the time, Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill) took the students’ service-learning project and introduced Senate Bill 533. The students testified at the Capitol and their bill received a unanimous vote out of committee.

Logan has since joined the #CivicsInTheMiddle team as a Civics Instructional Coach to “pay forward” and share what he has learned over the years with teachers in Alexander, Clinton, Franklin, Jackson, Jefferson, Johnson, Marion, Monroe, Perry, Pulaski, Randolph, St. Clair, Union, Washington & Williamson Counties.

Logan describes his service-learning experience below and gives us an exciting update!
Last Spring my students at Carlinville High School embarked on their service learning project for the Senior Civics class. A group of students decided that they wanted to deal with the topic of Daylight Savings Time. These students put together a well-researched presentation and decided that they wanted to reach out to their state senator. Senator Andy Manar made a visit to CHS and sat down with the students. After their presentation, Sen. Manar asked the students if they wanted him to introduce their topic as a bill to be heard by the General Assembly. Senate Bill 533 went through the typical legislative process and the students were invited to Springfield to testify in front of the State Executive committee. The bill was tabled until this fall session and Tuesday, November 12, 2019, it passed the Senate floor with a 44-2 vote. I am proud of the efforts of my students. This is what service-learning looks like at its finest.
The Carlinville Service-Learning project has been featured in both local and Chicagoland news outlets. As the bill heads toward the Illinois House of Representatives, #CivicsInTheMiddle classrooms can join this service learning project by doing their own research and contacting their state legislator to share their thoughts on the bill.

What does service-learning look like in your classroom? Please comment below. Together, we can prepare ALL students for college, career and civic life.

Count Me In: Schools as Critical Partners in #Census2020

by Mary Ellen Daneels, Civics Instructional Specialist

The stakes could not be higher for Illinois in the upcoming census. As Shawn Healy shared in a blog post almost a year ago, “According to the George Washington Institute of Public Policy, $800 billion of federal funding supporting 300 programs is appropriated annually to states based on census counts. Due to Illinois’ undercount in 2010, the state lost $952 per person of federal funding. In 2015 alone, Illinois lost $122 million for every 1% of the population we failed to count.”

Shawn continues to explain, “It’s widely known that Illinois is losing population in recent years, with losses most pronounced outside of metropolitan Chicago. In fact, 89 of Illinois’ 102 counties experienced population loss from 2010 through 2017. Rockford, Kankakee, Decatur, and Metro East (suburban St. Louis) have been particularly hard hit, while Lake County is the only Chicago area county with a shrinking population. Given the stakes of Census 2020, it’s imperative that we identify and mobilize HTC (hard to count) communities in Illinois.” is hosting a free webinar this Tuesday, November 12th from 3:45-4:30 p.m. to explore how your school can play a critical role in helping all stakeholders in your community to understand the importance of an accurate count and how to navigate difficult questions your students, staff, and parents may have concerning participation.

In this webinar, we will explore how the 2020 census will play an important role in addressing essential questions related to representation, power, resource allocation, and equity that will directly impact your school community for the next decade. Learn about how this census has additional challenges related to adequate funding, reduced staffing, limited testing, and delayed communication plans.

You will also be connected to an inquiry-based lesson plan and other resources that you can use to empower your students to take informed action to support your community to register an accurate count. If you cannot join us live, a recording will be shared via social media with the #CivicsInTheMiddle hashtag.

The 2020 Census provides K-12 civics classrooms an opportunity to engage in inquiry leading to informed action around issues of power and representation. Here are some other resources you can use to engage your community.

Classroom Resources

  • has created a 6-12 Inquiry Lesson Plan “How Does Your Community Count on You?” explore the questions:
    • What is the purpose of the census and how does it “count” or impact my community?
    • How do numbers + lines = power for my community?
    • What are the challenges to an accurate count in my community?
    • What actions can I take to make sure my community "counts"?
  • Statistics in Schools - U.S. Census has free K-12 lessons and activities?
  • Share My Lesson: Census Lessons has compiled lessons around the 2020 census from organizations like C-SPAN, Citizens Not Spectators, the Anti-Defamation League, and the Tenement Museum.
  • Census Brain POP Debate has grades 4-12 explore BrainPOP resources to learn about the U.S. Census
  • The Los Angeles County Office of Education has created resources for grades 5-8 called "Count Me In!"
  • Rock the Vote has an information video and a pledge for students to be counted.

Understanding Census 2020 in Illinois

Community Outreach Materials

What are you doing to support an accurate count for #Census2020? Please reply below. Together we can prepare ALL students for college, career and civic life.

Media Literacy Learning Opportunities Widespread at Democracy Schools, but Inequities in Access and Outcomes for Students of Color Concerning

by Shawn P. Healy, PhD, Democracy Program Director

On the heels of media literacy week, my analysis of 2019 student survey data from a pilot group of eleven Illinois Democracy Schools (N=3,904 students) turns next to media literacy learning opportunities and outcomes disaggregated by race/ethnicity (read the full analysis of questions related to media literacy).

  • Learned how to evaluate the credibility and reliability of news and information;
  • Learned how to find different perspectives and multiple sources of information about a current event or community issue;
  • And discussed how to tell if the information you find online is trustworthy.
However, on each of these measures white and Asian students are overrepresented at the highest frequency and Black and Latinx students at lower frequencies as illustrated in the graph below.

Most students across race and ethnicity (54%) reported discussing how to effectively share their opinion on social or political issues online twice or more in classes, yet more than a quarter of students (27%) don’t recall or have never experienced such discussions.

When it comes to responding to an issue through digital means, a majority of students (62%) don’t recall or have never done so. However, Black students (41%) lead the way in answering in the affirmative, while 71% of Latinx students answered “no” or “don’t recall.”

There is also room for improvement at selected Democracy Schools in improving students’ efficacy examining research related to problems in their school or community. While a plurality of students (39%) expressed confidence in their research skills, white and Asian students are overrepresented in their efficacy, while a plurality of Black (41%) and Latinx students (46%) rate their capacities as “neutral.”

News consumption and civic engagement is trending online, and it’s imperative that students develop the skills and dispositions to make sense of daily deluge of digital information at their fingertips. A sample of students at Illinois Democracy Schools suggests relatively strong exposure to media literacy learning opportunities, but equitable access across race and ethnicity is an issue. This may translate into lower media literacy efficacy for Black and especially Latinx students. The relatively high use of digital issue advocacy by Black students is an asset to be leveraged, and lower usage by Latinx students cause for immediate intervention.