Assisting Students in Civic Awareness and Community Engagement
“In order to cultivate a set of leaders with legitimacy in the eyes of the citizenry, it is necessary that the path to leadership be visibly open to talented and qualified individuals of every race and ethnicity.” – Sandra Day O’ Connor.
As early as Kindergarten, students learn about citizenship.
Students are introduced to historical events and engaged in understanding chronological and spatial thinking, relationships, primary and secondary evidence, and timelines. By middle school, students are introduced to more geography and ancient civilizations, allowing them to understand the culture, religion, and natural resources used throughout various groups and the impact on climate and weather. By eighth grade, students become actively engaged in taking a closer look into the Constitution and ideas of the Declaration of Independence and diving into political philosophy and the Statute for Religious Freedom.
By the time students get to high school, they are engaged more in the Industrial Revolution and how the First World War landed on American Democracy and Economics principles. For twelve years, students get exposed to information that is supposed to help build a foundation of understanding of how nations were developed and currently operate. Does this encourage students to become actively engaged in their communities, and do they understand the depth of the connection between history and civic leadership and engagement?
Educators are accustomed to working with extra-curricular materials to fill any necessary voids in the mandated and adopted curricula, which is sometimes an essential step in helping students bridge the desired academic outcomes for grasping the standards introduced each year. Educators are encouraged to differentiate instruction because how students learn concepts may vary from student to student. There is a program, ICivics (https://www.icivics.org/), founded by the late Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, the first woman to serve on the United States Supreme Court. Justice O’Connor’s desire to create such a program was to help students not only become aware of the role of government but also to make it fun and inspiring for students. Ideally, students who participate in this program have a better idea of their role in society and, more specifically, how they can serve their communities, which is a win for everyone, themselves included. While there is a paid prescription for this program, some free resources exist for students, parents, and educators.
Other resources, such as the National Constitution Center (https://constitutioncenter.org/), offer online resources around civic engagement.
There are also resources at the California State Capitol that offer virtual tools and more (https://capitolmuseum.ca.gov/learn/educational-resources/activity-center/). In addition, more apps and online tools are developed to create a community for civic engagement, leadership, and advocacy. Parents can also contact the Solano County Resource page (https://www.solanocounty.com/depts/fvp/community_resources/family_resource_center_(FRC).asp) and specifically for Benicia, Benicia Family Resource Center, Phone: 707.746.4352, Fax: 707.746.8127 email@example.com 150 East K Street, Benicia, CA 94510. Watch Me Grow is another resource for parents (https://watchmegrowinc.com/). This organization provides ongoing resources for families and is a big advocate in helping the community and families understand the significance of ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences).
In high school, students are often encouraged to attend city council or school board meetings and have the agendas signed as proof of being in attendance. Some other organizations have now incorporated a component to ensure that students become civically engaged at an early age, such as Jack and Jill of America, Inc., which also requires students to participate in community service, financial literacy, and public speaking.
Parents and guardians are encouraged to connect with their student’s district office for additional support or resources, and of course, the child’s classroom teacher is the first line of communication.
Our students are our future, and we can encourage them to understand their significance early, which benefits everyone in the long run, especially the longevity and sustainability of our communities.
“We have a complex system of government. You have to teach it to every generation.” – Sandra Day O’ Connor.