Civics is not something that should be limited to middle and high school, or post school life. Civics, that is, learning about and understanding the tools and responsibilities and obligations of engaging in the life of a community, is something that should be happening from the very first time a child sets foot in school. We need to be ‘doing civics’ with our elementary kids from day one!

KidCitizen is an exciting and increasingly popular new online tool for introducing concepts of civic engagement and civic learning through primary sources to kids of all ages, including kindergarten.

In KidCitizen’s interactive episodes, children explore civics and government concepts by investigating primary source photographs from the Library of Congress.  They also connect what they find with their daily lives.

KidCitizen episodes capitalize on the active and social nature of young children’s learning. They use primary sources for rich demonstrations, interactions, and models of literacy in the course of innovative hands-on activities that make academic content meaningful, build on prior experiences, and foster visual literacy and historical inquiry.  Each KidCitizen episode draws on a set of primary source photographs from the Library of Congress.

All KidCitizen episodes run on PCs, Macs, Chromebooks and iOS and Android mobile devices.

The great thing about Kid Citizen is that it focuses on just that: how can kids be engaged in civic life? A cursory glance at the interactive episodes and modules alone provide a good overview of this!

kid citizen episodes

Recently, our friends over at the National Council for the Social Studies interviewed Drs. Ilene and Michael Berson of the University of South Florida about KidCitizen, the fruit of much of their collaborative work. (Disclosure: Dr. Michael Berson is a Senior Fellow of FJCC)

The overview the Drs. Berson provide of KidCitizen, and why it can make a difference, is a really good one:

“Using primary sources in the classroom actively engages students in interpreting the mystery of the past and exploring multiple representations of events. KidCitizen was designed to provide scaffolded instruction for historical inquiry. The focus of the app is to facilitate a developmentally appropriate process of careful looking, historical thinking, and evidence-informed analysis that are at the center of disciplinary literacy. By slowing down the act of looking, children discover new information and construct viewpoints as primary sources are mined. The KidCitizen app provides authentic, age appropriate interaction with primary source materials, based on research-informed practices and evidence-based pedagogy, engaging children in exploring civics and government concepts through historical sources, and connecting what they find with their daily lives.”

We need to be giving our youngest participants in civic life the opportunity to engage, to learn, to think, and as they suggest, to involve themselves in the process of ‘looking’ in order to learn, construct, and think.
Check out KidCitizen here, and be sure to read the whole short interview here!

You can find other really great resources for civics students of all ages over at the Civics Renewal Network!