Students Take Responsibility for Making Real Change in Their School or Community

When students take initiative through civic action, they gain skills, voice, and efficacy -how can we help more teachers make this happen?

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Students best learn to be active and responsible citizens when they actually seek to promote change, rather than just talking or reading about it. This means that in civic action projects, they themselves

  • Identify issues important in their lives and community that they will address
  • Research an issue to understand its causes and possible solutions
  • Plan actions to work on change, which means determining a goal, whom to address, and how to advocate for a solution
  • Carry out their planned action(s)
  • Reflect on the process and what they've learned.

This kind of teaching and learning is essential for developing a more engaged and responsible citizenry --  something sorely needed in our society now. Classroom vignettes and strategies for facilitating this work are available in the book, From Inquiry to Action: Civic Engagement with Project Based Learning in All Content Areas. Visit a blog with  ideas and strategies for this. And check out some research on civic engagement effects on student attitudes, along with an essay by Zemelman on "The Answer Sheet" blog at the Washington Post. And please watch the video of a short TEDx talk by Chicago teacher Elizabeth Robbins that inspired this proposer to promote civic engagement learning.

While many excellent teachers are facilitating civic action projects in their classrooms, how might we help more teachers try them? This is a challenge since the effort involves balancing student initiative with teacher support, something not all educators are accustomed to.

Our Chicago school partner in this effort will be Reilly Elementary School. Reilly teachers and students have done outstanding work on Restorative Justice, making the school a natural for civic engagement learning and action. We plan to focus on the 6th through 8th grade Social Studies and English teachers.

Explore the GoogleDrive folder for more information, research support, a brief look at professional development on civic action projects, and opportunity to comment.

As a pilot effort for promoting civic engagement and action at Reilly school, we propose the following process.

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Team (3)

Steve's profile
Heather's profile
Heather Van Benthuysen

Role added on team:

"Heather is the Civic Education Manager for Chicago Public Schools, and an outstanding professional development leader as well as a talented English teacher. Heather will lead professional development sessions for the teachers involved in this project."

Mauricio's profile

Role added on team:

"Mauricio Pineda is an outstanding art teachers at Reilly Elementary School in Chicago, the focus of this project. He has expertise in restorative justice, and uses student art projects to address social issues in the school and community, and will be a great help in guiding Reilly middle school teachers to facilitate student civic action projects."


Join the conversation:

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Thanks, Maggie Favretti-
At this time, I mainly observe/research/write about civic action projects. I'm looking for more ways to promote this kind of learning, perhaps beyond the book I've written & the blog I maintain (at ). I'd like to learn more about your work, so perhaps you could share a bit of detail (grade-level, how you coordinate multiple projects at once, what students are focusing on, etc.) by email, instead of on this site. You can reach me at .
Best wishes,
Steve Z
PS: Once we see how we are aligned, perhaps you'd like to be part of a team on this topic, here on the Teachers Guild site?!

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