The Civic Circle is a Silver Spring, Maryland-based nonprofit in formation that will bring civics alive for very young children with music and drama shared in assembly and after-school programs.
Programming will excite elementary school-age children and meet them at their level with two powerful tools:
Arts Integration, which links arts with learning by inviting students into a creative process.
Action Civics, which gives children real-world democracy experience by inviting them to identify and take steps to tackle challenges in their communities.
Many schools lack the resources to teach civics, and public understanding of democracy and government is at record lows. Americans lack faith in and know little about government institutions and those who represent them.
Existing civic education organizations focus largely on middle and high school students. Yet very young children readily understand such concepts as fairness, respect, truthfulness, equality, having a voice and helping others. If we do not introduce children at a young age to the building blocks of civic identity we are missing a key window for passing civic values on to the next generation.
Both assembly and after school programs will be built around a series of civic values, each captured with a single word that grabs the attention of young children.
Embedded in songs, skits, raps, poetry and after-school group activities will be civic rights and responsibilities such as freedom of speech and worship, the right to a fair trial, the right to vote, the role of public service in civic life.
But this will not be “your grandfather’s civics,” with treatises on how a bill becomes law. Students will learn about government and public life, but through creative expression and kid-directed activities.
Multicultural programs will feature music and drama in English, Spanish and other languages, and that celebrate the full diversity of the nation’s heritage.
What Civic Values Will Students Learn?
The civic values include:
Civic Value: Civil Discourse.
Concepts: Respect, dignity. There are lots of different kinds of people in our school, our community, our nation, our world. Does different mean worse? People of good heart can disagree, and sometimes we have to compromise. Can you argue the other side of a topic?
Civic Value: Media Literacy.
Concepts: What do you really know? How can you tell if what you are hearing is true? In a game of telephone, does information change as it travels down the line? Do you believe everything you hear in the hallway? Would you repeat it? Are you responsible on social media?
Civic Value: Voting.
Concepts: Who has the power in your home, school, community? Do you think you have to wait until you are 18 to vote, or that your voice doesn’t count? You have choices today, as in when the family votes what movie to see, or your school chooses who will represent the student body. Do you know who is running to represent you in school, community, state and nation?
Civic Value: Community Service.
Concepts: You have more power than you think. People are more powerful when they work together. You are a member of many communities: Your school, your neighborhood, your town, city and country. Can you help someone in need, or fix something that is not working where you study or live?
Civic Value: Advocacy
Concepts: You have a right to free speech, and a right and responsibility to tell your story. There are many ways you can make your voice be heard. The people in power are there to represent you, and they care about what you have to say. Do you want to speak at a public meeting, or write a news outlet or politician?
Civic Value: Community Organizing
Concepts: When you see something wrong, or someone being treated unfairly, do you speak up? How can you be part of a solution, instead of part of a problem? How much change can you bring about when people work together? Can you organize a park cleanup day, book drive or food drive?
Civic Value: Public Leadership, Running for Office.
Concepts: Anyone can grow up to be president, including you. And even if you don’t become president, you could be mayor, a school principal, or the head of an organization that helps people close to home or all over the country. Once you have thought about something, what can you do about it? Where are you going?