Civics360: A New Resource for Civic Education



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Good morning, friends in Civics. Over the past few years, teachers here in Florida and elsewhere in the United States have made heavy use of the Escambia Civics Review Site. We do believe that the partnership with Escambia County and the willingness of that district to host and share resources for teaching and learning has been beneficial for everyone. Over time, however, requests have been made and ideas contemplated about improvements that could be made to make that site even better. These requests and ideas include more student friendly videos, more helpful assessment tools, and resources for ESOL students and struggling readers. With that in mind, the Florida Joint Center for Citizenship, in partnership with Escambia County Schools,  is excited to announce the launching of a new Civics review site that will, later this summer, replace the currect Escambia Civics Review Site: Civics360. Civics360 is free to all registered users, much like our current Florida Citizen website. This site is now live and available for your use.

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So what are the new features you will find in Civics360? Take a look at the orientation video below, which walks you through the registration process, and read the rest of the post to learn about what we hope will be a useful resource for you and your students.

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Elementary Social Studies and Why It Matters

Elem Social Studies CCSSO

We know that we have issues in this country with social studies instruction, and it is especially challenging at the elementary level. Whether we are talking about the impact of assessment on instruction, the weakness of the content-based resources, or simply the loss of time devoted to and disappearance of social studies from the elementary curriculum, it has an impact that is simply not debatable. When social studies is marginalized, it robs students of the opportunity to develop the knowledge, skills, and dispositions they need to be effective and engaged citizens. We simply cannot expect success and engagement when many kids don’t start learning about civic life and engagement, and everything that goes into it, until well into middle school or even high school. Social studies matters. We have an obligation to ensure that it is being taught with fidelity and with passion. As Dr. Tina Heafner argued in her keynote at the Florida Council for the Social Studies’ recent conference, effective and quality social studies instruction is the right of all students. 

The Social Studies Collaborative, a working group made up of members of the Council of Chief State School Officers, has recently released an infographic, featured at the top of this post, that illustrates both the disturbing data on the marginalization of social studies AND  the positive benefits of social studies instruction that can result when we return our beloved field to the prominence it deserves.

You can download the infographic here or here: Elementary SS Brief 45

We here at the Florida Joint Center for Citizenship and the Lou Frey Institute support and believe in this message completely. We need to bring social studies back to the elementary schools. We need it to ensure that our students become the best citizens they can be. And it needs to, and CAN, start in Kindergarten. FJCC even has some short civics-oriented lessons that can be done in about 15 or 20 minutes and introduce social studies and civics concepts to elementary school students at all grade levels!

New Addition to Civics360: Scripts for More Than 60 Videos


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Civics360 is a resource for civics education that we at the Florida Joint Center for Citizenship are excited to provide to the civics education community in Florida and beyond. It contains readings in multiple languages, more than 60 animated and narrated videos across a variety of topic areas, practice assessments, external resource links, and vocabulary tools. Recently, we began adding short activity resources pulled from our traditional lesson plans that can be used as a supplemental enrichment or instructional tool within some modules (and this process is ongoing!).

We constantly seek to improve this resource, based on your input and requests. Of course we are adding the aforementioned activities, as requested by so many folks. We are currently beginning work on improving the practice assessment, and we have plans to go back and re-record or revise some of the earlier videos to address concerns over pacing and related audio issues. One of the most requested additions is a transcript of each video. Happily, after an extensive review of every video and revisions to scripts that were changed during development, we have now completed and uploaded the scripts for all 60-plus videos on Civics360.

script example

These can be used as supplements to the video, to assist students in completing the viewing guides, to help kids that might be a bit hard of hearing, or simply as an additional reading resource if you don’t want to show the videos. You can find them right above the video itself.

script location

We hope you find these useful. If you have questions or comments about this or anything else on Civics360, please feel free to shoot us an email!

FREE ONLINE CIVICS PD: New Cohort of ‘The Prepared Classroom’ Now Enrolling!


Friends in Civics, we have some exciting news. The Florida Joint Center for Citizenship at the Lou Frey Institute is now offering a free online Canvas course targeting primarily new and beginning civics teachers in Florida, though it is open to any and all civics educators who are interested.

This program will provide educators new to civics with a supported professional
learning experience while teaching middle school civics. They will learn,
implement and reflect on educational best practices, engage with a cohort of
other educators and network with experienced civic education professionals. You can learn more about the course series here!

For those teachers in Florida seeking points towards certificate renewal, this course series offers that opportunity through the ePDC (electronic Professional Development Connections) system. In the infographic below, you can see the scope and sequence of the course series.


“I just wanted to thank you for offering the online Civics Modules, I learned so much during the first one and can’t wait to implement some of the things I learned.” —A beginning civics teacher “Thank-you also for the course- I learned quite a bit about how to teach Civics in Florida and to especially to 7th graders.” —An experienced teacher new to civics in Florida

Later this month, we will be starting the next cohort for COURSE ONE. We hope to have Course Two ready later this fall or early winter.

A Prepared Classroom will focus on understanding the role of course descriptions and the Civics End-of-Course Test Item Specifications, utilizing curriculum and pacing guide resources, strategically planning and preparing for instruction, as well as providing data informed instruction based on formative and summative data. You can view the syllabus for the first course here: FJCC A Prepared Classroom Syllabus

You can enroll yourself in the course here! Or, and use the following join code: KWYTK4

Are you more interested in the second or third courses because you feel pretty good about the content in the first one? That is fine! You DO NOT have to take every course; Florida teachers may earn renewal points for EACH course in the series. We will be piloting the second course, A Cognitively Complex Classroom, in late 2018 or early 2019 with a small group of teachers, and will let you know when we launch it after what we hope will be a successful pilot!

Each course in the series will be offered through the free version of the Canvas platform. Canvas Free for Teacher accounts are always free, but they do not contain all features available to institutional users of Canvas. For example, no client support beyond access to the Canvas Guides is offered to you as a Free for Teachers user. With a Canvas Free for Teachers account users can access and participate in courses as well as create (and host) their own online courses. Please note that you WILL have to create a new account to use this version of the platform; it is not compatible with the institutional version you may use in your school or district. You can learn more about this version of the platform here.

In order to enroll in the course, you will need to be sure that you register through the ePDC system. Let’s walk through the process together. First, go to the PAEC website at

Once there, click on ePDC and if this is your first time, click on ePDC and then ‘Create an Account.’ Once you confirm your account registration, sign in and then click again on ePDC and select ‘Course Offerings’. You should see a screen like this:


Click on ‘Course Offerings’, and you will see something like this:

In the ‘Search Text’ bar, you can type ‘FJCC’, and the course should appear! BE SURE TO ENROLL IN THE NOVEMBER COURSE. 

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Click on ‘Register’ and you should be in. The ePDC course is setup to automatically direct the person that registers for the course to the Canvas Course page.  You will have to create an account if you do not already have one but the link to the September course is embedded in the ePDC PAEC course.

You can expect a follow up email or two from your course instructor in Novemeber, prior to the start of the course. At this time, registration is limited to the first 25 participants, but it may be possible to make exceptions!

How are in-service points handled?
PAEC extracts in-service records from the ePDC and submits in-service data for member and participating districts to the Florida Department of Education as a service to districts. Teachers from outside of PAEC member or participating districts should print the Certificate of Completion for each course and submit the certificate to the appropriate district professional development office.

We do hope to see you in this online space for learning and the development of a virtual professional learning community. Please share this with anyone you believe might benefit from this course series! 

Questions about this entire course series, or the first course in the series (‘A Prepared Classroom‘), can be directed to Dr. Steve Masyada or Ms. Peggy Renihan.

Improving Civics360 to Meet Your Needs


You are, we hope, familiar with Civics360, a resource dedicated to providing content and literacy tools for civics instruction.


If you aren’t familiar with Civics360, it has narrated 5 to 10 minute videos, readings in three languages, vocabulary tools, and assessment resources across a wide variety of civics and government related topics. It does require registration, but it is 100% free. You can find an overview of Civics360 here.

One of the most commonly requested resources for Civics360 are activities connected to the modules. This is something that we have been working on, and we are happy to note that we have made some progress on this! We have taken activities from our traditional lessons on Florida Citizen and turned them into short activities on Civics360. They are in a PDF Form format, so students should be able to download and complete them on their own devices as well and print or email them to the teacher. These activities generally involve taking what they have learned to the next level and demonstrating understanding of the content within the module.

We have now added stand-alone ‘Showing What You Know’ activities for the following benchmarks: 1.3 (Road to Independence), 1.5 (Articles), 1.6 (Preamble), 1.7(Limits on Gov Power), 2.4 (The Bill of Rights), 3.1(Forms of Gov), 3.2 (Systems of Gov), and 3.4 (Federalism). Look for the ‘Showing What You Know’ section on each module page!

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Help Shape Fantastic ‘The Constitution Annotated’ Resource!!!!



Are you familiar with CONAN, or the Constitution Annotated, provided by the Congressional Research Service? If not, why not? It is, in technical terms, simply a fantastic resource and we at FJCC cannot recommend it enough. It contains legal analysis and interpretation of the Constitution based primarily on US Supreme Court case law, and is consistently updated.
Folks at the Congressional Research Service are working with a group of graduate students on new tools and applications for CONAN, and they are looking for YOUR help. They would like to interview K-12 educators to get a better understanding of if or how they might like to use the Constitution Annotated in the classroom. This is a chance for YOU to help develop resources and tools that can help both your students and your colleagues in civics and government.
If you know a teacher who teaches civics or government, at any level, please contact Natalie Buda Smith at She would love to hear from you and arrange a conversation and get your insight!

Resources for Addressing Anti-Semitism and Hate

Good morning, friends. Today’s post comes to us from Dr. Michael Berson of the University of South Florida. Dr. Berson has long worked in educating pre-service teachers, and is a long time advocate for Holocaust education in Florida and beyond.
We hope, in this time after such a horrible event, that you find the resources in this post useful.
This weekend there was a mass shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. As we reflect on the news of this horrific tragedy, we also are faced with questions about the roles and responsibilities of educators and educational leaders in addressing the growing tide of hatred and discrimination across our nation. I wanted to share the following resources on how to confront antisemitism. 
The word antisemitism means prejudice against or hatred of Jews.
“I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” (Elie Wiesel’s Acceptance Speech, on the occasion of the award of the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, December 10, 1986)
Addressing Anti-Semitism through Education (2018 Report)
Educators play a powerful role in society, and the USHMM program Oath and Opposition: Education under the Third Reich examines the question- What role did teachers play during the Holocaust? There are a number of case studies that you could use with a class
Yad Vashem
USC Shoah Foundation
USC Shoah Foundation Antisemitism and the Bystander Effect (Secondary Lesson Plan)
USC Shoah Foundation 100 Days of Respect

CRF/FJCC Civic Action Project for Middle Schools Webinar


We at FJCC have worked hard to implement a version of CRF’s Civic Action Project into middle schools, and it has, happily, gone very well!

We are always looking to support the needs of civic teachers not only in Florida but elsewhere, so we are happy to share with you that we will be collaborating with the Constitutional Rights Foundation to host a webinar on October 30th about the Civic Action Project and what it might look in middle school!

Civic Action Project (CAP) provides free lessons and tools for your students to address an issue that matters to them.
Service learning meets project-based
learning meets civic engagement . . . that’s CAP! 
Join us for an introductory webinar on
October 30, 2018, 7 p.m. ET / 4 p.m. PT

You can register for the webinar here , and it will occur at 7 Eastern, 4 Pacific. We look forward to your participation!

Justice Sandra Day O’Connor: Advocate for Civic Life and Learning


It was with sad hearts that we here at the Florida Joint Center for Citizenship and especially our parent organization the Lou Frey Institute learned of the need for Justice Sandra Day O’Connor to step away from public life. Justice O’Connor, famous for being the first woman on the U.S. Supreme Court, continued to work hard well into her retirement, focusing on civic education.
And what did we get for her focus on civic education? iCivics, perhaps one of the most important and engaging civic education resources in the nation. But so much more as well, and for us in Florida, it is Justice O’Connor’s name that is on the law that mandates a comprehensive civic education program in Florida. The Justice Sandra Day O’Connor Civic Education Act, passed in part to the hard work of former Florida governor Bob Graham, former Representative Lou Frey, the wonderful Dr. Doug Dobson, and of course the justice herself, was a groundbreaking piece of legislation and helped pave the way for Florida to become a national model for implementing civic literacy and learning.
To this day, we at FJCC, LFI, UF’s Bob Graham Center, and the Florida Law Related Education Association continue the work inspired by Justice O’Connor. We, the staff of the Florida Joint Center for Citizenship at the Lou Frey Institute (and especially Dr. Dobson, who worked with her so closely) wish her and her family the best in a well-deserved break and full retirement.

Recognizing FJCC/Lou Frey Institute Fellows and Staff!

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Good morning friends. This past weekend was the 61st annual Florida Council for the Social Studies state conference, and it featured a keynote (sponsored by the Lou Frey Institute) from National Council for the Social Studies President-Elect Dr. Tina Heafner of UNC-Charlotte. The keynote was well-received, and we are grateful for Dr. Heafner’s participation and engagement with FCSS members!
During the awards dinner, fellows and staff from the Florida Joint Center for Citizenship at the Lou Frey Institute at UCF demonstrated why both LFI and UCF continues to grow in reputation and influence. The following winners of professional organizational awards were announced:

The Agnes Crabtree International Relations Award
The Agnes Crabtree International Relations Award recognizes the FCSS member who has through teaching, research, or community activities, furthered the cause of international relatiions. It is given in honor of Agnes Crabtree, a teacher in Miami-Dade County. Agnes was active in the NCSS and the FCSS, and the United Nations Association, serving three times as international relations consultant for the NEA.

Dr. Scott Waring of UCF’s College of Community Innovation and Education and a Fellow of the Florida Joint Center for Citizenship at the Lou Frey Institute

Dr. J. Doyle Casteel Outstanding Leadership Award
The Doyle Casteel Outstanding Leadership Award is given to an individual with a minimum of five years’ experience for his/her continuous leadership in a supervisory or administrative capacity, and leadership in FCSS. Applicants are judged on the impact their efforts have made to promote cross-cultural understanding, the role they have played in mentoring classroom teachers, and the degree to which they have advocated the importance of social studies education.

Mr. Christopher Spinale, 
FJCC’s Action Civics Coordinator

Dr. B.J. Allen Social Science Professional Award
The BJ Allen Outstanding Leadership Professional Award honors an outstanding FCSS educator who has served the professional organization in a comprehensive way. It emphasizes service to FCSS and to social studies during the year or years immediately past. B.J. Allen was Florida State University Professor and President of the Organization.

Ms. Peggy Renihan, 
FJCC’s Professional Development Coordinator

J.R. Skretting Leadership Award
The J.R. Skretting Social Studies Science Proffesional Award recognizes the FCSS leader who has excelled in the past year in increasing membership and involving members as well as representing ably the goals and purposes of FCSS to the public, the membership, members of the total professional community, and the legislature. J.R. Skretting was a Florida State University Professor and First Executive Director of FCSS.

Dr. Stephen Masyada, 
FJCC Director

Congratulations to these excellent folks for representing not only UCF but the Institute and the Center well, and for contributing so powerfully to our field, to civic education, to our state, and to our nation.


Florida Council for the Social Studies Annual Conference Arrives Soon!

Good afternoon friends! Another day, another chance to highlight some interesting sessions at FCSS this October. Be sure to register here, and join your colleagues for what will be an excellent weekend! Now, on to some highlights!

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Well, of course we have the Friday night reception and the Saturday and Sunday keynotes, so you will definitely want to check those out! But what about some other interesting sessions?

Saturday Morning, October 20
8:00 AM Session
Mentor Session
Scott Kaplan, Pinellas County Schools

Are you a new or beginning social studies teacher? This session, sponsored by the FCSS Endowment and led by the excellent Scott Kaplan, will connect you with experienced educators and provide valuable insights into teaching social studies in a variety of classrooms.

Concurrent Session 1
Student Curriculum Relevance and Historical Relationships from Past to Present
Glen Wolff, Cypress Bay High School

How can we connect historical topics with present day events? How can we help our kids become critical thinkers and writers about past, present, and future? These sorts of questions will be addressed in this session! 

Civics and the Social Goals of Holocaust Education
Mitchell Bloomer, Holocaust Memorial Resource and Education Center of Florida


Looking for some good standards-based civics lessons featuring Holocaust education content? Then check this session out. See how they can be applied in the classroom, and get some ready to go resources!

Concurrent Session 3
Lessons in Character Education Found in Modern Media Formats
Kelsey Evans, Brian Furgione, and Allison Sheridan, University of Central Florida
This CUFA session considers how PBS programming, and media like it, contribute to the teaching of character education and the ways in which the messages in the media are perceived by families and kids. Certainly sounds like an interesting look at the ways we interpret the meanings behind what we watch and listen to and say.

Concurrent Session 5
The Imperative of Courage and Compassion in Combating the Holocaust
Bozena U. Zaremba, Jan Karski Educational Foundation

I am a huge fan of graphic novels, and this session will share with participants a graphic novel concerning courage and compassion, and the importance of engaging with, not running from, evil. Definitely one to check out. 

Be sure to register here, and join your colleagues for what will be an excellent weekend!