This involves a competition through the National Current Events League but really is a focus on students developing an understanding of what is going on in the world around them, knowing that educated people are well-informed people, and setting up habits of keeping track of major events.
Students blog about what's happening around the world (arts & entertainment, general news, both national and international, science & health, business & finance, and sports) and share articles in class. They tie current events to events in the past, they practice summarizing, and learn about topics that aren't necessarily covered in school. Interestingly, there is a steep learning curve for some students about what is considered newsworthy, which is a great English and history class lesson.
Though we participate in a competition, it is a group effort since the top 10 scores from the entire grade level are sent on to the competition. The 8th grade test, which 4 times a year, 30 questions from essentially anything that happened in that time period, is quite hard. Still, students challenge themselves to do well on it and become informed citizens because of it, which in turn leads to real discussions/decisions when they are asked to identify real community and world problems to solve. When we discuss US women's struggles to vote, they have a current context of voting rights issue from around the world. When we discuss the Trail of Tears, we have current examples of people being forcefully moved from one location to another.