Showing posts from January, 2021

The State of the State

by Mary Ellen Daneels, Civics Instructional Specialist This week, the Illinois Civics Hub turned its attention to Illinois state politics by hosting the WBEZ Government and Politics team for an hour webinar on “the state of the state.” WBEZ Political Editor Alex Keefe was joined by state political reporters Dave McKinney and Tony Arnold to provide an overview of, “key issues in Springfield, the latest politics – and how to keep up.” Topics included redistricting, the Commonwealth Edison scandal, calls for ethics reform, new leadership in the General Assembly, rumblings about who is running in 2022, and the financial challenges facing the Land of Lincoln. If you missed the webinar, you can access a recording to watch at your convenience. Illinois School Code requires students to receive instruction on the state constitution in both middle and high school. This webinar provided context for #CivicsInTheMiddle classrooms to make direct instruction on the government institutions in t

Forever Ours in Civics

by Mary Ellen Daneels, Civics Instructional Specialist Last Friday marked Dr. Shawn Healy’s last day as the Director of the Democracy Program at the Robert R. McCormick Foundation. Shawn will still be involved in Illinois Civics , but in a different role as the senior director of state policy and advocacy at iCivics . In this new role, Shawn will take the lessons learned from his leadership in all things civics in Illinois to strengthen civic learning for K-12 students across the country. While Shawn took the opportunity to reflect on his role in putting #CivicsInTheMiddle in Illinois classrooms in his blog post titled, Forever Yours in Civics , we would be remiss if we did not take space to reflect and share the impact Shawn has had on educators and classrooms throughout the Land of Lincoln. Shawn’s legacy is indelible and he is “forever ours” in civics. As a result of Shawn’s tireless work to encourage civics education, educators have a more comprehensive understanding of the impo

Forever Yours in Civics

by Shawn P. Healy, PhD, Democracy Program Director Twenty years ago this fall I began a short stint as a social studies teacher at Community High School in West Chicago (Wego). It was there that I met our incomparable Instructional Specialist Mary Ellen Daneels and was assigned to teach a required Government course called the Legislative Semester. Conceived by retiring teacher Steve Arnold and perfected by Daneels, the Legislative Semester engaged students across classes in the legislative processes of the Illinois General Assembly from day one. Class was conducted with Parliamentary Procedure, where students debated and voted upon issues, later declaring party affiliations, electing party leadership, and drafting legislation with an issue group. Ultimately, students’ bills were presented and debated in committee, a half-day all school “field trip” where the library and adjacent classrooms were transformed into legislative antechambers. Bills that survived committee scrutiny (about

Resources to Respond to Tragedy and Violence

by Mary Ellen Daneels, Civics Instructional Specialist All educators are civics teachers. Teachers send messages to students about power, justice, and representation by the content we select, the way we engage student voice, the norms we employ, and the stories included in our classroom. We have a responsibility to prioritize our students’ lived experiences, putting Maslow before Bloom , to inform the essential questions we address in our curriculum. When violence or tragedy occurs, classrooms provide a safe venue for students to process, ask questions and be given context to understand current events as they happen. While current events unfold, it is not the time to debate policy. Educators will not have all of the answers to the questions students pose. Teachers can create a classroom space where we can be present, listen, and create a safe environment for our students to do the same. Start with Reflection Your students may be wrestling with a range of emotions. We cannot assum

The First 100 Days

by Mary Ellen Daneels, Civics Instructional Specialist The past week has been a testament to the importance of the work we do together to prepare students for civic life. Teachers have risen to the challenge of the recent violence at the Capitol. A special Social Studies Network Chat on Twitter (#sschat) on the evening of the riots provided a safe space for teachers to process, ask questions, and share resources as they prepared to meet students the next day. Through the  Illinois Civics Hub Facebook group, teachers collaborated in real time to curate materials for classroom use. Illinois Civics endeavored to support classrooms with curated materials to address questions about insurrection, the 25th Amendment, impeachment, and discussion strategies appropriate for this time. On Monday, Civics 101 Podcast was the host of the weekly #sschat centered on the theme of Transitions of Power . The final question of the night asked, “How has teaching during this election cycle changed th

Be a Guardian of Democracy: Strategies for Current and Controversial Issue Discussions

by Sue Khalaieff, Democracy Schools Network Manager The second session of the Civics Across the Curriculum webinar series was held on Thursday, January 7, 2021. This year’s theme builds on the theme from the originally scheduled Democracy Schools Network Spring 2020 convening, “Every Teacher is a Civics Teacher: Best Practices for Civic Learning and Organizational Supports.” View a recording of the session . The program featured Alia Blumlein, Prairie Ridge High School Social Studies Instructor, and Tracy Freeman, Normal West High School Social Studies Department Chair. It was facilitated by Mary Ellen Daneels, Civics Instructional Specialist, Illinois Civic Mission Coalition.  The presenters spoke about their experience with the Guardians of Democracy  online course in Current and Controversial Issue Discussions and how their professional practice has been enhanced as a result of it. Specifically, both noted these advantages: having a reliable, steady pool of resources to utilize