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September 3, 2014

21st Century Interdisciplinary Theme

Civic Literacy

According to the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, schools must not only focus on students’ mastery of core subjects, but also promote their understanding of academic content at much higher levels by weaving 21st century interdisciplinary themes into those subjects. One of these themes is civic literacy, which involves participating effectively in civic life through knowing how to stay informed and understanding governmental processes. Civic literacy also involves exercising the rights and obligations of citizenship at local, state, national and global levels; and understanding the local and global implications of civic decisions.

Here are some ideas for integrating civic literacy into your classroom activities.

Stories from History

The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation’s Gift to the Nation website offers students in grades 4–8 an opportunity to interact virtually with historical characters and provides teachers with unique resources to engage students in the study of citizenship and our founding democratic principles.

For the first time, the foundation’s award-winning, one-hour LIVE Electronic Field Trips are complimentary to all viewers. Watch via online streaming or broadcast television. The broadcasts feature historical documentary or dramatic video, in combination with live discussions by experts and historians, as well as interactive opportunities for all viewers via Twitter or instant feedback poll.

The broadcast schedule features seven programs, airing October 2014 through April 2015 at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. (ET).

For example, on October 9, 2014, students who embark on The Global Economy field trip will join Maggie, an adventurous rat, as she boards ships using international trade routes to make her way home from England to the American colonies. Along the way, students will discover the inner workings of the 18th-century mercantile system.

On January 15, 2015, students will have the opportunity to vote for outstanding musical performances in Colonial Idol! This talent showcase features 18th-century music, including Native American songs, military tunes, enslaved people’s work songs and much more. As the judges deliberate, students will discover how music can influence individuals, shape public opinion and even change history.

And in the premiere of Working Children, on March 12, 2015, students will get to meet a young apprentice boy who dreams of a better life while working in a Philadelphia print shop in 1775, and a Mexican American migrant girl in 1960s California who struggles to harvest garlic all day and keep up with her studies. These and other working children help illuminate the evolution of child labor in America from colonial times to today.

Extensive history resources created for the Electronic Field Trips are available on-demand, year-round by subscription in HERO, the History Education Resources Online, a multimedia library and e-learning environment for teachers and students. Additional opportunities for interaction are available to HERO subscribers. This subscription-based media library is $250.00 for a one-year school site license.

A Diverse Democracy

Do your students ever wonder what it takes to be a good citizen? In Citizens Unite!, an engaging 10-minute animated video from The Center on Congress at Indiana University, students follow Paul the Robot and Francis the Platypus as they learn the basics.

On their adventure into citizenship, Paul and Francis run into the ghost of James Madison, who has a good deal to teach them about the big ideas that make our system of government so unique. In the process, they find out how the actions of the citizens who have come before us have helped shape our current-day society. They come to understand the many different ways citizens can participate in our democracy as well as in our local communities. And they learn about the characteristics of good citizens that are so important to our democracy—for example, listening to others, making sound decisions and speaking up on issues that matter to us.

Political and Social Discourse

Commons - Digital Town Square is an online civic learning platform that prepares young Americans to become knowledgeable, engaged 21st century citizens through standards-based educational gaming along with personalized social interactions that spark civic engagement and connections to community leaders and heroes.

Commons is both standards-based and student-focused, with learning activities aligned to the Common Core State Standards for literacy in history and social studies. The content topics are based on state standards for civics, government and social studies:

  • Rights of US Citizens
  • Structure of US Government
  • Elections and Voting
  • Juries and the Courts
  • Persuasive Writing and Debate
  • Taxes and Budgets
  • Duties of Elected Officials
  • Legislative Process
  • State and Local Government

Students take part in real-life civic engagement by conducting research, writing to elected officials, developing a project plan, discussing and debating issues with their peers and more. In addition, students using Commons participate in political and social discourse and action by creating a Civic Portfolio that showcases their work, focusing on an issue or topic of their choice.

Commons – Digital Town Square is offered free to schools by Everfi in partnership with iCivics.

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