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Civic Mission


Civics In The Middle

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A special edition newsletter for Illinois civics teachers to support the implementation of the state’s middle and high school civics course requirements and K-12 social science standards in a remote learning environment.

Civics In The Middle Online Summer PD Series

Illinois students entering middle school this fall must participate in a semester of civics instruction before moving to high school, laying a foundation for students to successfully complete a civics high school graduation requirement. Join the McCormick Foundation and the Illinois Civics Instructional Coaches this summer for a series of webinars designed to enhance teacher practice with the content knowledge and proven practices required in the middle and high school mandates.

Each session will take place on Wednesday morning from 9:30-10:30 a.m. and include a content expert presentation on a select topic and a question and answer session with Illinois Civics Instructional Coaches. Educators can join live to interact with hosts and ask questions, or watch a recording of each session. Each webinar is free.  Participants can earn two hours of PD credit through the DuPage Regional Office of Education by completing an extension assignment in which participants:

  • respond to post-webinar questions
  • explore a curriculum design toolkit provided by
  • ask follow-up questions to their regional civics, instructional coach, to facilitate the implementation of the civics mandates.

Civics in the Middle Online PD Schedule

Go to the Professional Development calendar and register today for the topics that interest you. If you wish to take any of the webinars for PD credit, please register for each course with the DuPage Regional Office of Education.

This PD opportunity is made possible by the generous support of the Robert R. McCormick Foundation Democracy Program.

New Resources for Continuity of Learning in Civics

In the last newsletter, we introduced our Continuity of Learning page to share best practices in distance learning, lesson plans, and resources for civics in grades 6-12.  Since its debut, several of our civic learning partners provided additional educational supports.  

Become an Illinois Democracy School

Illinois Democracy Schools make a schoolwide commitment to strengthening civic learning practices across disciplines as well as the organizational culture to sustain those practices. The McCormick Foundation is in the process of recruiting new high schools for the fall that are interested in pursuing recognition. For more information, please contact Sonia Mathew.

#Teach2020 Webinar Series: The Illinois Fair Tax Amendment

This election year brings an opportunity to engage students in the proven practices of civic learning outlined in the 6-12th grade civics course requirements. will continue to provide resources and lesson plans to support this initiative. 

On Tuesday, May 12th, Dr. Shawn Healy, Director of the Robert R. McCormick Foundation Democracy Program, will unpack the upcoming referendum to amend the Illinois Constitution to explore the question, Does the Progressive Tax Add Up for Illinois? The webinar will conclude with classroom resources you can use to engage students in current and societal issue discussions, simulations of democratic processes, and service-learning during this election year.

Register today. Those who register can join live or receive a link to view the recorded presentations and accompanying resources.  

Earn Your Civic Microcredentials:  Become a Guardian of Democracy Educator partnered with the Lou Frey Institute at the University of Central Florida to provide educators the opportunity to earn their micro-credentials in the proven practice of current and controversial issue discussions in the classroom.
The summer cohort will begin June 7th and run through July 10th. Educators can express their interest at the Guardians of Democracy homepage. Those who successfully complete the 5-week online course will earn a Bronze Certified Guardian of Democracy Educator badge via Credle and the University of Central Florida Center for Distributive Learning. Participants can earn 15 PD hours through the DuPage Regional Office of Education for $50. Graduate credit is available through the University of St. Francis for completing a three-course series.

Additional courses on Simulations of Democratic Processes and Taking Informed Action Through Service Learning are coming in Fall 2020.

SEL Strategies to Support Students During the COVID-19 Crisis

COVID-19 upended many of the routines and traditions that undergird our lives. Teachers are asked to create meaningful learning experiences to further develop student knowledge and skills in a homebound environment. We must take care to prioritize and model SEL competencies in our interactions with students.  We asked our Illinois Civics Instructional Coaches to share how they have put “Maslow before Bloom” to foster the complementary civic practice of Social Emotional Learning with students. Here are some of their ideas.

Alia Bluemlein- Change up Fridays with “Feel Good Friday” activities- these lessons can be adapted for your classroom and take 20-30 minutes (sidewalk chalk, gratitude letters, mindfulness practice, etc.). I love participating and reflecting along with students- and really emphasizing the importance of taking care of ourselves before we can commit to any curriculum or content. Region: Boone, Northern Cook, Lake, McHenry,  and Winnebago Counties

Candace Fikis-Students are looking for ways to connect with their peers and many people are trying things like Zoom, but some schools are worried about the security issues associated with such an app. Google Classroom just rolled out Google Meet. Here is an easy to follow direction sheet. Some ideas for these Google Meets: start the week with a reflection on the weekend, last week’s work, any questions that they have, and how they are feeling about the week coming up (this can eventually be used to help develop the rest of the week’s plans). You could also have a guest speaker join in.  It could be related to your content (a politician, a historian, an economist) or a community member, a mental health provider, doctor/nurse, police officer, food bank worker, etc who can help answer questions about our community and/or our health during this time. Region: Southern Cook, Grundy, Iroquois, Kankakee, Kendall, and Will Counties 

Heather Monson-  I know it is old school but I have been mailing my students postcards. I found some cards with encouraging statements and quotes. They love getting them and message me when they come. One even said he missed seeing my handwriting. In addition, I mailed all my kids a note with a blank note and envelope for them to “pass it on” and send someone else a note of encouragement. They have greatly enjoyed sending those to their family members or friends.   

Another idea is to offer the students some fun things to do. I have been posting things like how to make moon sand, cinnamon crumb cake recipes, and how to make play clay. I teach seniors in high school and they have enjoyed the “play” activities. I have a Google slide presentation where they post their pictures of their various play activities. They have had fun with it. Region: Carroll, Jo Daviess, Lee, Ogle, Rock Island, Stephenson & Whiteside Counties 

Patty West- Maintaining the student-teacher relationship is a crucial component of remote learning. One way to stay connected is through journal writing. An ongoing journal can be kept in Google Classroom. Teachers can read and respond to student entries. This is a private correspondence that allows students a place to voice their concerns and share their feelings. My students have been writing in their journals since the start of the stay at home order. I have enjoyed reading about how they are spending their time and learning more about them. The journals have also allowed me to provide emotional support to my students. To manage the 5 class sections that I teach, I read and respond to one class each day. Region: Bond, Calhoun, Christian, Effingham, Fayette, Greene, Jersey, Macoupin, Madison, Menard, Montgomery & Sangamon Counties

Engaging Student Voice for Civic Action

As we shared in a recent blog post, there are many opportunities for students to be personally responsible, participatory, and justice-oriented students during remote learning. Several civic partners are facilitating this process by providing platforms and outlets to engage student voice for informed action. Here are several service-learning opportunities for you and your students to explore.
  • The Experiment Digital connects hundreds of young people across the U.S. with peers in Iraq, Algeria, Yemen, and other countries in the Middle East and North Africa Region. This fully-funded eight-week summer virtual experience teaches students to formulate and implement service projects in their local communities. 
  • Pass the Mic: Students Discuss Equity in Civic Education is a webinar in which student panelists from across the country will explore whether students are getting what they need from their civic education. This experience, organized by Youth as Civic Experts, will pass the mic to students, allowing them to share their insights and experiences working with adults to bring equitable change to their civic learning environments. The webinar is on May at 6 p.m.
  • The #TakeBack2020 Social Campaign hosted by Bites Media aims to spark media and civic literacy across the next generation of young leaders. The campaign asks students to answer questions like “What’s scary?” or “What are you hopeful for?” through writing, videos, artwork, or GIFs. Bites Media will be reporting and sharing submissions to amplify young voices and bring the online community together.
  • Students are invited to explore how poetry can be an effective response to current events and under-reported stories and how it can be used to connect global issues to local and personal contexts through the Pulitzer Center’s Poetry Contest. Any current K-12 student may enter the contest. The submission deadline is May 15.
  • Meridian Stories announces “Narrative Flashpoint,” a series of eight creative prompts that ask students to create two-minute digital stories about life during the pandemic. Free to all students and schools, the initiative is designed to allow students to express and share their perspectives, and be active participants at this moment in history. The submission deadline is May 31.
Many thanks to the National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) for sharing many of the civic action opportunities listed above in their newsletter.

At, we endeavor to link educators with resources that address essential questions with proven strategies and tools to prepare students for college, career, and civic life. This monthly newsletter provides civic educators with timely professional development opportunities, classroom resources, and inspiration with #CivicsIsBack success stories. For weekly updates on emerging research on civics, “teachable moments” and related materials, follow our blog.

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