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.

civics360 cover

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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Upcoming AFT Share My Lesson Webinar: CIVICS IN REAL LIFE: RESOURCES FOR VIRTUAL INSTRUCTION

Friends, some exciting news! As part of the AFT Share My Lesson Webinar Series: Civic Education and the 2020 Election, your friends here at FJCC/The Lou Frey Institute will be delivering a session on our Civics in Real Life series and Civics360!

Join Christopher Spinale, Val McVey and Steve Masyada, all of the Lou Frey Institute and Share My Lesson for a conversation on virtual resources for civics and current events.

Thursday, October 15, 2020
5:00PM EDT
FREE
Register

Some of the most difficult topics for educators to address in the classroom are current events. How do we approach current events in a way that connects to our content while also allowing opportunities for both discussion and engagement?

This webinar will share virtual resources that can be used to address current events from a civics lens. The Lou Frey Institute will discuss its Civics in Real Life series, a weekly series which uses civics concepts to explore current events 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 will discuss ways in which this resource can be integrated into both face to face and virtual instruction while also discussing the use of the free Civics360 content platform as a means of building foundational knowledge through a virtual resource.

You can register for the FREE webinar here. We hope that you will be able to join us on the 15th of October at 5 pm! Questions? Email Steve!

Founders Month: A Student Essay about James Armistead Lafayette

We have been doing posts on various Founders, and I thought it might be nice to feature a post written by a middle school student about someone important to the founding of this country. So today, I ask that you please read this post about a Founder by the name of James Armistead Lafayette, brought to us by a young lady named Hannah, in Marion County, Florida.

Facsimile of the Marquis de Lafayette’s certificate of commendation of James Armistead Lafayette, 1784

James Armistead Lafayette: The Forgotten Founder

As the British generals discussed their war plans, they had no idea of the traitor in their midst.  After all, they believed him to be one of their own.  Little did they know, that their spy, a slave, was a double agent for the colonists.  There should be no reason for the officers to have been suspicious, in all likelihood the slave could not read or write.  He spied on the colonies and gave good information.  He took the crucial information learned in the British camp back to General Marquis de Lafayette himself.  Those acts are an important reason why America prevailed in the Battle of Yorktown and won our independence.  How could a man of such low status have gained the trust of General Lafayette?  Why is the impact of such a vital character in the story of American independence often omitted?  This American patriot, James Armistead Lafayette, was born into slavery and died a free man after his service in the Revolutionary War.  Armistead Lafayette infiltrated the British forces as an American spy, provided information that helped America win the Battle of Yorktown, and went on to take Lafayette’s name when he gained his freedom.  Based on these historical events, James Armistead Lafayette is the most important American founder.

James Armistead was employed by Lafayette as a spy because the general hoped to gain intelligence on British movements.  Posing as a runaway slave, he was able to infiltrate the British forces.  The double agent’s espionage resulted in the possession of the locations of British troops, arms and battle strategies by British Generals Benedict Arnold and Cornwallis.  The information he gathered would prove to be essential to the Founders’ victory at the Battle of Yorktown.

Leading up to the battle, Armistead obtained indispensable knowledge of British preparations.  In his time as a British agent, Armistead helped guide British troops through local roads.  While In camps, officers would openly speak about war strategies, which he then documented and turned over to other American spies.  Armistead had gained the trust of both the American and British war camps and could pass freely between the two.  In his reports back and forth, Armistead with the help of General Washington and General Lafayette, was able to prevent the British from sending 10,000 reinforcements to Yorktown.  Because of this the British military was crippled and eventually surrendered to the colonies on October 19, 1781, resulting in the birth of our nation.

After Armistead Lafayette helped America win her independence, he went on to gain his freedom and take Lafayette’s name.  Unfortunately, following the American victory, James Armistead was returned to slavery because a law freeing slaves who fought in the war did not apply to him.  However, he petitioned the Virginia Assembly to obtain his freedom.  His petition was supported by his owner and a letter from Marquis de Lafayette saying, “He properly acquitted himself with some important commissions I gave him and appears to me entitled to every reward his situation can admit of.”  This provides sufficient evidence that while in Lafayette’s service, Armistead deserved not only his freedom but every right that could be offered to him.  The words alone are empowering, but considering that the man behind them is a general makes them all the more credible.  After James gained his freedom, he took the name of the man who advocated for him when nobody else would.  There is an engraving from the 1780s on display in the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation Museum of Marquis de Lafayette standing next to a man believed to be James Armistead Lafayette.  The fact that Armistead, a slave, is depicted in the foreground with General Lafayette is so incredible due to the fact that artists rarely produced works with enslaved persons in the foreground of a picture, much less with a well esteemed general.  This gives further support for the status, contributions, and importance of James Armistead Lafayette.

After all of the information has been reviewed the question as to why James Armistead Lafayette is forgotten from the narrative of American history looms even larger. In the face of slavery and oppression, James Armistead Lafayette went on to help America gain their freedom in the face of tyranny and in turn, gained his own. In his life, James Armistead Lafayette infiltrated the British forces as an American spy, provided information that helped win the Battle of Yorktown, and went on to take Lafayette’s name when he gained his freedom to become the most important American founder.

Thanks so much, Hannah, for sharing this with us, and for teaching us about someone who deserves more attention for his contribution to American freedom. You can learn more about James Armistead Lafayette here. 

American Founders Month: Patrick Henry

Check out the National Constitution Center’s biographies of the Founding Fathers! https://constitutioncenter.org/learn/educational-resources/founding-fathers

It’s Founders Month here in Florida! According to the Florida Department of Education,

Section (s.) 683.1455, Florida Statutes (F.S.), designates the month of September as American Founders‘ Month and s. 1003.421, F.S., recognizes the last full week of classes in September in public schools as Celebrate Freedom Week.

So what does this mean for our schools and kids and teachers? Basically, it’s time to do some learning about the men and women who have helped shape this state and this country. Here on our Florida Citizens blog, we’ll be doing at least two posts a week with a brief overview of a particular Founder, Framer, thinker, or shaper of this state or this nation and how they made an impact.

Sept 23 or 24 Henry

There may be no quote more famous in our nation’s history than Patrick Henry’s “…give me liberty or give me death!”

Patrick Henry, like many of his peers, was a man of many talents, beliefs, and contradictions. He was a brilliant orator, fiery and powerful, but few of his speeches survived him, as he rarely wrote anything down. Unlike his contemporaries, he did not write many letters, so we have few primary sources to consider him with. A passionate advocate for liberty, he was, like many of his elite contemporaries from the South, a slave holder. Like many of them (though not all!) he recognized the evils of slavery without necessarily choosing a path towards relief of his own complicity. A believer in strong bonds across the states, he was embittered by what he saw as New England’s reluctance to contribute fairly to the national project under the Articles of Confederation.

His passion for liberty led Henry initially to the Anti-Federalist camp; he did not trust those working in Philadelphia at the constitutional convention, and he did not trust the new Constitution.

 This Constitution is said to have beautiful features; but when I come to examine these features, Sir, they appear to me horribly frightful: Among other deformities, it has an awful squinting; it squints towards monarchy: And does not this raise indignation in the breast of every American? Your President may easily become King: Your Senate is so imperfectly constructed that your dearest rights may be sacrificed by what may be a small minority; and a very small minority may continue forever unchangeably this Government, although horridly defective: Where are your checks in this Government? Your strong holds will be in the hands of your enemies: It is on a supposition that our American Governors shall be honest, that all the good qualities of this Government are founded: But its defective, and imperfect construction, puts it in their power to perpetrate the worst of mischiefs, should they be bad men

Ultimately, however, he sided with the Federalists, in part because of rivalry with his fellow Virginian Thomas Jefferson.  You can learn more about Patrick Henry’s famous ‘give me liberty’ speech with this great activity here!

Grab the PowerPoint slide featured in this post: Patrick Henry AFM

Civics in Real Life for Constitution Day!

The newest Civics in Real Life is now available! It’s Constitution Day! Let’s take a look at just what that wonderful document is about!

You can get this, and other Civics in Real Life resources, over at Florida Citizen! And don’t forget about the Preamble Challenge from the Civics Renewal Network!

As a reminder, so far our topics this fall have explored

Presidential Nominating Conventions

party conventions

Voter Registration

regust

As a reminder, so far our topics this fall have explored
Elections

elections crlVoting Rights

These will be updated once a week throughout the school year, addressing or relating to current events and civic concepts, without necessarily directly connecting to any particular state standards and benchmarks. We hope you find these one page resources useful!
You can find an overview of the ones from spring here! These are all still available over on Florida Citizen.

American Founders Month: Deborah Sampson

Check out the National Constitution Center’s biographies of the Founding Fathers! https://constitutioncenter.org/learn/educational-resources/founding-fathers

It’s Founders Month here in Florida! According to the Florida Department of Education,

Section (s.) 683.1455, Florida Statutes (F.S.), designates the month of September as American Founders‘ Month and s. 1003.421, F.S., recognizes the last full week of classes in September in public schools as Celebrate Freedom Week.

So what does this mean for our schools and kids and teachers? Basically, it’s time to do some learning about the men and women who have helped shape this state and this country. Here on our Florida Citizens blog, we’ll be doing at least two posts a week with a brief overview of a particular Founder, Framer, thinker, or shaper of this state or this nation and how they made an impact.

deborah sampson

Are you familiar with Deborah Sampson? If not, you should be, for we might consider her a Founding Mother, and certainly perhaps the first woman in US history to get a military pension.

She was born the poor daughter of a poor though preeminent family, a great granddaughter of founding Pilgrims Myles Standish and William Bradford. She was indentured at age 10, completing her service at 18 and then working as a self-educated teacher in Massachusetts. But in the heat of war, as the Revolution raged, she felt she had to do something more. She wanted to fight. But she was a woman, and that was impossible. Or was it?

She disguised herself as a man, and served as a light infantry scout, led men in battle, was wounded more than once (and taking care of the wounds herself, less her true sex be exposed) and served proudly as a soldier in Revolutionary Army. But then she fell ill and lost consciousness, and was then honorably discharged from the army. She married, had children, and traveled the new country telling her story.

“Four years after Sampson’s death at age 66, her husband petitioned Congress for pay as the spouse of a soldier. Although the couple was not married at the time of her service, in 1837 the committee concluded that the history of the Revolution “furnished no other similar example of female heroism, fidelity and courage.” He was awarded the money, though he died before receiving it.”

sampson marer

You can learn more about Deborah Sampson by visiting Mount Vernon’s excellent overview of her life and service! 

You can get a copy of the slide on Deborah Sampson here: Sampson AFM

Founders Month: Thomas Jefferson

Check out the National Constitution Center’s biographies of the Founding Fathers! https://constitutioncenter.org/learn/educational-resources/founding-fathers

It’s Founders Month here in Florida! According to the Florida Department of Education,

Section (s.) 683.1455, Florida Statutes (F.S.), designates the month of September as American Founders‘ Month and s. 1003.421, F.S., recognizes the last full week of classes in September in public schools as Celebrate Freedom Week.

So what does this mean for our schools and kids and teachers? Basically, it’s time to do some learning about the men and women who have helped shape this state and this country. Here on our Florida Citizens blog, we’ll be doing posts with a brief overview of a particular Founder, Framer, thinker, or shaper of this state or this nation and how they made an impact. This includes folks you may never have heard of, and folks beyond those great Framers and Founders we find in our books.

Sept 25 Jefferson

Today, we look at Thomas Jefferson. Out of all of the Founders’, it may be Thomas Jefferson that most schoolchildren are most familiar with. They know him, of course, as the author of the Declaration of Independence. The Declaration, of course, is considered on of the clearest rebukes of tyranny ever written, and it remains to this day a symbol of the pursuit of liberty the world over.

Like many of his peers, however, Jefferson was a man of massive contradictions. An advocate for liberty who owned a great many slaves, a slaveowner who recognized the evils of slavery (‘the rock upon which the Union would split’) but never freed his own slaves (unlike his colleague and friend George Washington, who freed his own upon his death), an opponent of an activist and strong central government who nevertheless used his power to purchase vast swathes of land from the French (despite his doubts about whether the Constitution gave him that power), and a believer in the importance of civility and comity in politics and life who was involved in one of the most brutal presidential campaigns in American history.

Thomas Jefferson was indeed many things, some good, some bad, but all important to the legacy of freedom and the Founders of this country. As one of his successors as president, John F. Kennedy, once said while hosting a dinner for Nobel Prize winners,

I want to tell you how welcome you are to the White House. I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered together at the White House, with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone.
Someone once said that Thomas Jefferson was a gentleman of 32 who could calculate an eclipse, survey an estate, tie an artery, plan an edifice, try a cause, break a horse, and dance the minuet.

Log in and learn more about Thomas Jefferson from this excellent lesson provided by our friends at iCivics! 

You can grab the PowerPoint featured at the top of this post here: Thomas Jefferson AFM

Some EXCELLENT Free or Low Cost Professional Developments for Civics and Government!

Are you looking for some useful virtual professional development that can help you teach about elections and prepare for Constitution Day? Be sure to check out these excellent PDs being offered by some excellent providers! Thanks to the inestimable Mary Ellen Daneels for giving a heads up about these.

This virtual conference is provided by the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and man, it looks FANTASTIC!

TEACHING ABOUT THE 2020 ELECTIONS

Teaching about elections is one of the best opportunities to prepare young people for political engagement. This conference helps educators teach about electoral politics in a way that is engaging, respectful to all points of view, and supported by the best and most current information.

WHAT TO EXPECT

The Teaching About the 2020 Elections Conference is an exciting opportunity for K-12 teachers and administrators to:

  • Learn about important election-related issues
  • Access resources that support instruction and enhance student learning
  • Be introduced to national civic education programs and their curricula

Politics can be divisive, confusing, and challenging to approach. This conference will help educators find ways to ensure their students can discuss these sensitive and important topics with care, knowledge, and facts.

PROGRAM DETAILS

When: September 26, 2020, 9:00 a.m.–2:45 p.m. CDT

Where: Online

AND CHECK OUT THE LINEUP OF ALL STARS!

Check out the page for more information. It’s only ten dollars!

Another great opportunity comes to us around a book, Faultlines in the Constitution: The Framers, Their Fights, and the Flaws that Affect Us Today, by Cynthia and Sanford Levinson

Join co-authors Cynthia and Sanford Levinson in a conversation with moderator Mary Ellen Daneels about FAULT LINES IN THE CONSTITUTION to help prepare for Constitution Day lessons this year!

They’ll be discussing today’s most timely and urgent topics, including the Presidential election, Coronavirus, protests, and more — all as they relate to the Constitution.

This virtual conversation will

You can learn more about this event here! And, good news for teachers, the book has a graphic novel edition coming out.

Civics in Real Life: Labor Day

The newest Civics in Real Life is now available! We take a break from our election series to share a look at Labor Day, and how it reflects civic engagement and civic life!

Meanwhile, as a reminder, our election season series continues as we explore national party conventions and the role that they play in presidential elections. 

Presidential Nominating Conventions

party conventions

Another new one in our election series explores voter registration. Did you know that every state has different expectations for voter registration, and some communities even let non-citizens and 16 year olds vote in local elections?
Voter Registration

regust

As a reminder, so far our topics this fall have explored
Elections

elections crlVoting Rights

These will be updated once a week throughout the school year, addressing or relating to current events and civic concepts, without necessarily directly connecting to any particular state standards and benchmarks. We hope you find these one page resources useful!
You can find an overview of the ones from spring here! These are all still available over on Florida Citizen.

Newest Civics in Real Life: National Party Conventions & Voter Registration

The newest Civics in Real Life is now available! Our election season series continues as we explore national party conventions and the role that they play in presidential elections. 

party conventions

Another new one in our election series explores voter registration. Did you know that every state has different expectations for voter registration, and some communities even let non-citizens and 16 year olds vote in local elections?

regust

As a reminder, so far our topics this fall have explored
Elections

elections crlVoting Rights
VR CRL

These will be updated once a week throughout the school year, addressing or relating to current events and civic concepts, without necessarily directly connecting to any particular state standards and benchmarks. We hope you find these one page resources useful!
You can find an overview of the ones from spring here! These are all still available over on Florida Citizen.

Newest Civics in Real Life: Elections

The newest Civics in Real Life is now available! Our election season series continues as we explore how elections serve as an example of federalism and the most visible symbol of the American democratic system. We hope that you find this useful!

elections crl

As a reminder, so far our fall topics have addressed
Voting Rights
VR CRL

These will be updated once a week throughout the school year, addressing or relating to current events and civic concepts, without necessarily directly connecting to any particular state standards and benchmarks. We hope you find these one page resources useful!
You can find an overview of the ones from spring here! These are all still available over on Florida Citizen.