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 webinar session explored ways in which this resource can be integrated into both face to face and virtual instruction while also discussing the use of the LFI free Civics360 content platform as a means of building foundational knowledge through a virtual resource.

View a recording of the webinar on the Illinois Civics Webinar Archive.

We asked a few of our regional Civics Instructional Coaches to review the Civics In Real Life resources and share some of the offerings that resonate with their work.
  • Jason M. Artman from Mendota liked the Filibuster resource. “This is a great connection between current events and a legislative issue. There have been a few filibusters in recent years that caught some students' attention. When that came up, I used an episode of The West Wing (Season 2) to demonstrate why someone would filibuster and how those rules can play out.”
  • Tracy Freeman from Normal shared the entry on Vaccine Passports: “This is a fascinating discussion. I will use this in Civics as well as AP Government to discuss the issue of federalism. I also am interested in using this for a discussion on the right to privacy. I think this would be a great discussion for a moot court or a town hall.
  • Bonnie Laughlin-Schultz from Charleston remarked, “The topic of Statehood and DC statehood would be a great connection in the US history classroom, both in early America (as decisions are made about how to bring in new territories as states) as well as in late 19th century coverage of statehood in the West. I think historicizing statehood, particularly given how long it has been since new states have been added (when in 19th c. America, new states were a given) is really important.”
The Lou Frey Institute is just one of several civic learning partners the Illinois Civics Hub collaborates with to support implementation of the Illinois civics course requirements in middle and high school. This summer, the Illinois Civics Hub is offering free professional development that educators can participate in online- both in person and on demand. Visit the Professional Development Calendar to register for opportunities to learn from the Stanford History Education Group, the Bill of Rights Institute, iCivics, the Chicago History Museum, the American Bar Association, the Illinois Holocaust Museum, the National Archives and Dr. Steven D. Schwinn from the John Marshall Law School at UIC.

What are you doing to engage your student with “civics in real life?” Please comment below. Together we can prepare all students for college, career and civic life.

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