“America has never been united by blood or birth or soil. We are bound by ideals that move us beyond our backgrounds, lift us above our interests and teach us what it means to be citizens. Every child must be taught these principles. Every citizen must uphold them. And every immigrant, by embracing these ideals, makes our country more, not less, American.” -George W. Bush
“What’s most important in citizenship?” It was the question posed to my group yesterday during a professional development session. We were looking at an activity in Social Studies Techbook that challenged us to consider a list of characteristics of ideal citizens and rank them in order from most to least important. While there are many roles citizens play, the importance of civic virtue rose to the top of our chart. Techbook defines this as “the act of placing the common good, or the good of an entire community or nation, before the individual good.”
While the importance of STEM (or STEAM) skills is undeniably important for our students’ future, perhaps it’s time to C-STEM in a new light by promoting civics. What good are the skills if they do not advance our local, national, and global community? Preparing students to be college or career ready must include teaching students good citizenship.
The Social Studies Techbook describes good citizens as individuals who:
- are trustworthy and honest
- are courteous and respectful of others
- do not discriminate against others based on race, gender, or religion
- are patriotic, meaning they love their country and respect its laws
- participate in their school, local community, and elections
One way to help students learn about good citizenship is to look openly and reflectively at history to build background knowledge and foster understanding. We encourage students to build upon past discoveries and successes and to learn from their mistakes, to consider FAIL an acronym for First Attempt at Learning. We should be helping them mine history to learn from those who have walked before us.
In preparation for a conversation with my son, I searched Discovery Education for resources that would help me appropriately build background knowledge and, then, generate ideas to help turn current events into an opportunity to personally empower change.
Here are a few resources that will help us learn, share, and connect.
Citizenship (Core Interactive Text)
- Complete the activity described above by accessing the Civics and Government unit on Citizenship and completing the activity “A Good Citizen.” Before you begin, use the SOS Paper Chat (Canadian Subscribers) by posting questions such as What actions exemplify the ideal citizen?, Who are examples of good citizens and why?, and What do you think are the principles or ideals that unite Americans? Though this is intended for a middle school audience, it could easily be modified for elementary and high school.
- Select a segment from the full video and apply the SOS Silence is Golden (Canadian Subscribers) by removing the audio to focus students’ attention on the imagery, making inferences, and predicting future content. Pause every 30-45 seconds and have students describe what they see. Teachers can ask guiding questions about the imagery to allow for deeper thinking.
- Play the segment a second time, this time with audio. Place students in small groups to complete the SOS 6 Word Story (Canadian Subscribers) or Whittle it Down (Canadian Subscribers) to help them summarize key learnings.
- Consider having students complete a Getting VENN-y With It (Canadian Subscribers) chart comparing this event with the Reuters News Event: 2017-08-16: Confederate Monuments Removed in Baltimore as Debate Intensifies (Canadian Subscribers)
- Use the SOS Get Your Thinking Hat On (Canadian Subscribers) to have students carefully review your selected segment with a specific perspective from which to consider information and ideas. To summarize learning, use the SOS Instagram-in (Canadian Subscribers) to allow students to draw images and create hashtags to represent key understandings.
- Use the video interviews, activities, and mini quests found within the Content Collections to have students create a list of 25 Things You Didn’t Know (Canadian Subscribers) about the Holocaust. As a reflective activity, have students complete the SOS A-E-I-O-U (Canadian Subscribers) to share adjectives, emotions, interesting facts, surprising revelations, and questions they may have.
- View the archive and learning resources from the Past is Present: Auschwitz Virtual Experience.
- Empower your students to make the world a better place by cultivating kindness. Deliver lessons on Fairness and Integrity and challenge students to perform random acts of kindness within their community. Several of our community members have created Kindness Rocks to hide around campus and are encouraging families to hide them in parks and on local walking trails.
- Encourage your students to become more inclusive and connected to one another. The simple act of saying hello can have tremendous impact by letting young people know they are not alone and are valued. Put a social-emotional wellness twist on the SOS Table Top Texting (Canadian Subscribers) and pair students who do not usually work together to have them share compliments and things they notice the student does well.
- Have students create a board to share how they will be good school, local, national, and global citizens.
- Need ideas on how to get started with Board Builder? Access the Professional Learning Center’s Step-by-Step Guides for Board Builder (Canadian Subscribers).
What I love most about our community is our ability to connect with our most valuable resource, each other. I know I’m not alone. Let’s share ideas and strategies on how you promote and foster citizenship and tolerance in our online commUNITY.
We, the educators, have within our reach, the hope to form a more perfect union: our students. They are in your hands. Thank you for all you do to keep the flame and shine the light on civic virtue.