In last week’s post, we re-introduced ourselves and discussed the sorts of resources that we have developed and offer (for free) for civic education here in Florida and beyond. Today, let’s take a look beyond the ‘knowledge’ component of the ‘Civics Knowledge, Skills, and Dispositions‘ triad and discuss the ways in which we here at the Lou Frey Institute/Florida Joint Center for Citizenship are working to bring the skills and dispositions of component of effective civic education to classrooms.
Citizen Apprentices in Middle School
Chris Spinale, our Action Civics Coordinator, has referred to the work that we do with civic engagement as helping students in their roles as ‘citizen apprentices’ (and we will discuss more about the ‘citizen apprentice’ idea in a later post!). In doing so, we have begun a great deal of work and support around the Constitutional Rights Foundation’s Civic Action Project.
The Civic Action Project is an excellent tool to begin the work of citizen apprenticeships. Students have the opportunity to explore policy and develop solutions at all levels of community. It engages students in the deep and important task of thinking about civics from an engagement lens. How do I improve my community? How do I take what I have learned in civics and make a difference. It’s important to note, as well, that this is not inherently a conservative or liberal approach. Rather, it reflects what students themselves have identified as pressing issues in their community (and community may be a classroom, school, neighborhood, town, or more!). As an example, a couple of years ago, Citrus Ridge Civics Academy in Polk County did a CAP project to pursue policy change around domestic violence shelters. According to student research (a big part of CAP!), there was only one domestic violence shelter within the a certain radius of their community, and the students developed a presentation to try and convince policymakers to change that. Another simply powerful public service announcement dealt with an epidemic of suicide in the community (provided below; please be warned that it could be painful to watch for some folks).
Last spring, the Lou Frey Institute, in collaboration with the Boys and Girls Clubs of Central Florida, hosted the Civic Action Project Showcase. It gave groups of middle school students the opportunity to share their policy research, proposals, and recommendations to district superintendents, local leaders, and decision makers in their communities. You can read all about it here!
We are currently working, in some form or other, with schools in Brevard County, Polk County, Orange County, and even a school in Texas to implement some version of CAP in middle school.
Citizen Apprentices in High School
While we have launched the Middle School CAP effort already, we are currently working on and piloting something called Politics in Action (or PIA). This is based on the ‘Knowledge in Action’ work of Walter Parker and Jane Lo (and was developed for Florida in collaboration with Dr. Lo). This is essentially a simulation of American government that gives students the opportunity to really gain a deep (and necessary!) understanding of how American government is supposed to work. Take a look at the infographic below to see the 4 modules for this approach.
In the video below, Dr. Parker discusses this approach (though again, please note that we have adapted it for Florida!)
So that is just a couple of areas where we are moving beyond the ‘traditional curriculum’ of civic education and trying to bring civics in Florida to that next level of practicing skills and developing dispositions. If you are interested in either the Civics Action Project or Politics in Action, you can contact Dr. Steve Masyada or Chris Spinale of LFI/FJCC!