Showing posts from May, 2021

What Role do I Play in Making “a More Perfect Union”?

by Mary Ellen Daneels, Civics Instructional Specialist The mission statement of our constitutional republic can be found in the 52 words that comprise the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution . This ambitious opening statement by the framers challenges all of us to see ourselves as part of “we the people” and that we have a role to create that “more perfect union” in our communities. As Erwin Chemerinsky, Dean of Berkeley Law School; Jesse H. Choper Distinguished Professor of Law at the University of California - Berkley Law School and Michael Stokes Paulsen, Distinguished University Chair and Professor at University of St. Thomas School of Law, explain in the National Constitution Center’s Interactive Constitution : Importantly, the Preamble declares who is enacting this Constitution—the people of “the United States.” The document is the collective enactment of all U.S. citizens. The Constitution is “owned” (so to speak) by the people, not by the government or any branch thereof. We

Civics In Real Life

by Mary Ellen Daneels, Civics Instructional Specialist The Illinois civics course requirements at both middle and high school require the use of current and societal issue discussions around essential questions facing our communities. Engaging students in these civic inquiries allow students to explore enduring issues that “we the people” have grappled with over the history of our constitutional republic and see themselves as having a role in making a “more perfect union.” The Lou Frey Institute (LFI) at the University of Central Florida recently joined the Illinois Civics Hub at the DuPage Regional Office of Education to connect educators with virtual resources that can be used to address current events from a civics lens. Civics in Real Life is a weekly series which uses civics concepts to explore timely topics in a one-page, student-friendly, image-rich text. This includes hyperlinks to related content and a closing activity that encourages reflection and engagement. The we

The Underground Railroad Starts a Journey with Service Learning

by Mary Ellen Daneels, Civics Instructional Specialist The Illinois Social Science standards provide a pathway for students to use rigorous historical inquiry to explore essential questions around justice to help students appreciate how individuals worked to create a “more perfect union” and their own rights and responsibilities in this constitutional republic. Students at Glenn Westlake Middle School in Lombard embarked on this journey to understand their own role as “we the people” with the help of social studies teacher Dana Bering and instructional coach Annette Hanson. Students studied the pre-Civil War era with attention to the Underground Railroad and how Harriet Tubman took action in the face of injustice. Then, students brought this topic of inequality and injustice into the present by engaging in a virtual Town Hall meeting with Illinois State Representative Terra Costa Howard to explore how she serves her constituents and the community resources they could use to be ups

A User’s Guide to Democracy from Civics 101

by Mary Ellen Daneels, Civics Instructional Specialist Recently, the Illinois Civics Hub hosted a book discussion with Nick Capodice and Hannah McCarthy , co hosts and executive producers for New Hampshire Public Radio’s Civics 101 Podcast . Nick and Hannah’s podcast is a “go to” resource for 6-12 civics classrooms for concise, easy to understand content on how our constitutional republic works.   A User’s Guide to Democracy: How America Works is Nick and Hannah’s answer to a beginner’s civics textbook, complete with witty and creative illustrations from Tom Toro that is sure to make complex topics like federalism and checks and balances come to life. Good Reads explains: Within this book are the keys to knowing what you’re talking about when you argue politics with the uncle you only see at Thanksgiving. It’s the book that sits on your desk for quick reference when the nightly news boggles your mind. This approachable and informative guide gives you the lowdown on everything from t

Civics and the Arts

by Sue Khalaieff, Democracy Schools Network Manager Despite the unusual nature of the past school year, Democracy Schools have continued our mantra that “every teacher is a civics teacher.” To support this mission, we have offered a series of webinars since December that have explored “Civics across the Curriculum.” Blog posts and recordings are available on the Webinar Archive page. Melinda Wilson is the Dance Artistic Director at Curie Metropolitan High School for the Performing and Visual Arts in Chicago. She is a choreographer, dance instructor, dancer, and test writer for ISBE dance certification. Melinda has been recognized for her work — both locally and globally — with great distinction and numerous awards. She has vigorously engaged her students in meaningful ways in their communities. Melinda’s leadership in connecting the arts and civics makes her a valuable member of the Advisory Council of the Democracy Schools Network. How do the arts help students find their voi

Honoring AAPI Heritage: Reflecting on History to Inform Action

by Mary Ellen Daneels, Civics Instructional Specialist May is Asian American/Pacific Islander Heritage Month (AAPI). The Illinois Civics Hub partnered with the Illinois Democracy Schools Network to host a free webinar for students and teachers titled, Honoring AAPI Heritage: Reflecting on AAPI History to Inform Action. Participants had an opportunity to reflect on AAPI History, discuss the recent rise in hate crimes against the Asian American community and explore opportunities for students to take informed action .   Dr. Karen Korematsu , Founder and Executive Director of the Fred Korematsu Institute provided a historical grounding for this conversation. Sonia Mathew , Program Officer at the Robert R. McCormick Foundation then led a panel of AAPI champions in an exploration of current events and opportunities for informed action to support the AAPI community and beyond, responding to participant questions throughout. Panelists included: Grace Pai , Director of Organizing, Asi

Addressing Hard History with Service Learning

by Mary Ellen Daneels, Civics Instructional Specialist The Educating for American Democracy Roadmap identifies five Design Challenges educators must grapple with in teaching civics and history. Jennifer Burdette, a social studies teacher at  Spoon River Valley High School in western Illinois, used service learning to address design challenges one and four in her American History course, using inquiry for informed action on the essential question, "How can we address the legacy and impact of past injustice in our history?" to engage students in a unit of Native American history. Jen is one of 26 educators participating in the Guardians of Democracy Microcredential Program with Volunteer Generation Fund support from Serve Illinois to facilitate service learning opportunities for classrooms to work together for the common good of Illinois. We asked Jen to share a bit more about her experience of teaching this hard history with the goal of helping our youngest citizens un

Strengthening School Climate through Inclusion

by Sue Khalaieff, Democracy Schools Network Manager Loyola University Chicago’s School of Education has been partnering with several Democracy Schools across the Chicago metropolitan area for the past two years to develop and implement strategies to strengthen school climate through inclusion. This cohort of schools worked closely with Loyola University to identify an intervention that each school wanted to explore and develop and implement an action plan and support each other to move forward. In our final session of the Civics Across the Curriculum series on April 22nd, 2021, participating schools shared their perspectives and learnings from the experience. View a recording of the session. To begin the session, Jon Schmidt , Clinical Assistant Faculty, Loyola University, provided some contextual framing for the cohort’s work by sharing components of multicultural education from James Banks : Inclusive curriculum Equity pedagogy Empowering school culture Knowledge constru

The Educating for American Democracy Roadmap

by Mary Ellen Daneels, Civics Instructional Specialist Civics education plays an important role in equipping “we the people” to work toward a “more perfect union.” To support the civic mission of schools, more than 300 educators and scholars from across ideological and geographic boundaries worked for 17 months to create a framework for powerful civics and history instruction in K-12 schools. The Educating for American Democracy (EAD) Roadmap and Report provides guidance about what and how to teach integrated K-12 history and civics for today’s learners — at a time when our country needs it the most. The EAD Roadmap provides support to districts to implement the Illinois K-12 Social Science standards and civics course requirements with resources , a pedagogy guide , and vertically-aligned themes for inquiry that address today’s curricular design challenges . The EAD Roadmap is hosting a K-12 Student Design Challenge Contest that requires students to grapple with complex questi