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Civic Mission


Civics In The Middle

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A 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.

New Media Literacy Toolkit

If information is the currency of democracy, we must teach the youngest members of our communities to be wise consumers and producers of information.  Our civic learning partners at the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) explain:

Media is an important part of the ecosystem that influences (both positively and negatively) whether and how young people participate in civic life. News in print, podcasts, on television, in social media, and cultural work shared online inform youth about the world and shape their understanding of how they can contribute to it—or whether they try.

To support this complimentary practice to civic education, has curated resources to support media literacy. The Media Literacy Toolkit provides resources for educators to explore:

  • How can I help students be wise consumers of information?
  • How can I help students be wise producers of information?
  • Are there media literacy resources related to the pandemic?
  • How can I stay up to date with the latest resources to support media literacy in my classroom?
  • Where can I learn more about the importance of media literacy?

The Media Literacy Toolkit will be updated often, so check back for new resources to enhance your classroom practice.

Preparing Students for Inauguration Day

The new year brings with it a presidential inauguration. The Post Election Resources has been “minding the gap” between elections and Inauguration Day with timely resources to respond to current events. NEW RESOURCES have been added to address questions like:

  • How is the peaceful transfer of power designed to work?
  • What does it mean to be a “lame duck”?
  • How do presidential pardons work?
  • How does the Presidential Cabinet function?
  • What is the significance of the first 100 days of a presidency?
  • What are resources that can engage students in the upcoming inauguration?

The Post Election Resource page is revised often, so check back as current events pose new questions.

Apply for Street Law’s Supreme Court Summer Institute

Applications are now open for educators to apply to be part of the Street Law Supreme Court Summer Institute. This teacher professional development institute brings a select group of high school social studies teachers to Washington, DC, for an immersive six days of educational activities related to teaching about the U.S. Supreme Court. The Institute is co-sponsored by the Supreme Court Historical Society.

The application period for the 2021 Supreme Court Summer Institute opened on October 5, 2020. The deadline is March 15, 2021. If you have any questions, please contact Cathy Ruffing, Senior Director, Teacher Professional Development Programs & Curriculum, at

Putting #CivicsInTheMiddle Winter 2021 Professional Development

The new year brings new opportunities to teach civics using the proven practices of current and societal issue discussions, simulations of democratic processes, and service-learning to help students explore essential questions around power, justice, and representation. Join this winter for a timely series of webinars that spotlight local, state, and federal issues and the institutions of power communities must navigate for effective civic engagement. 

Each one-hour webinar will take place on a Wednesday from 3:30–4:30 p.m. CT. and connect educators with resources to engage their students in inquiry, leading to informed action. Those who register can join in person or be sent a recording post-webinar. Illinois educators can earn 2 hours of professional development credit through the Illinois Civics Hub at the DuPage Regional Office of Education to view the webinar and complete an application activity.

For a complete listing of professional development opportunities from, please visit our Professional Development Calendar.

PBS NewsHour Searching for Justice Series

PBS NewsHour has launched a “Searching for Justice” series. Searching for Justice explores criminal justice reforms unfolding across the country, as the leaders from both sides of the political aisle attempt to end mass incarceration by rethinking laws that some say have become barriers to work, housing, and economic stability. 

The series highlights essential questions around race, justice, equity, and power for #CivicsInTheMiddle classrooms, providing rigorous lesson plans that have students tackle current and societal issues, such as this lesson featuring Bryan Stevenson on changing the criminal justice system on behalf of children.

Click here for stories and the series and watch for NewsHour EXTRA lesson content based on Searching for Justice stories. Follow #SearchingforJustice on Twitter.

Teaching Civics through History with Street Law and the Library of Congress

In partnership with the Library of Congress, Street Law has developed Primary Sources Case Packs to help educators teach about landmark Supreme Court cases using primary sources from the Library of Congress.

Each case packet includes a summary of the case, three primary source activities, an inquiry-based task, and an answer key. Gideon v. Wainwright also includes a classifying arguments activity. Resources include:

New materials are being developed, so check back for more materials to teach civics through history with the Library of Congress and Street Law.

Every Teacher is a Civics Teacher- Civics Across the Curriculum Series

The Democracy Schools Network is hosting a webinar series centered on the various elements of Democracy Schools. This series's theme is “Every Teacher is a Civics Teacher: Best Practices for Civic Learning and Organizational Supports.” Sessions will occur from 4-5 p.m. on the first and third Thursdays of the month from January until April 2021. 

Educators, administrators, and students are welcome to attend.  Registration information is available on the Professional Development calendar.

Free Course from Yale on Managing Emotions in Times of Uncertainty and Stress

Developed by the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, Managing Emotions in Times of Uncertainty & Stress provides participants with the knowledge, skills, and strategies to understand and manage their emotions and those of their students. The 10-hour online course is designed for school staff, including teachers, counselors, paraprofessionals, principals, and non-teaching staff in PreK-12 schools.


  • Educate school staff in the science and impact of stress
  • Provide school staff with the opportunity to build and apply social and emotional skills and strategies
  • Offer strategies for helping students to identify and manage their emotions
  • Provide resources and ideas that are relevant during this time of heightened stress and uncertainty

You can read this article from The Hill for an overview of the course and visit the Coursera site for more information.

New Primary Source Lessons from Citizen U

Citizen U, a project of the Barat Foundation that weaves civics across grades and disciplines, published new lessons using primary sources from the Library of Congress.

Read more about Citizen U and their partnership with the Library of Congress Teaching with Primary Sources (TPS) program and  DePaul University’s Office of Innovative Professional Learning by visiting their homepage.

Bringing People Together: The Better Arguments Project

The Better Arguments Project is a national civic initiative created to help bridge divides between students and the community—not by papering over different viewpoints, but by helping the school community and students have “Better Arguments” that bring them together than driving them apart. 

The Better Arguments Project collaborates with the Aspen Institute Citizenship and American Identity Program, Facing History and Ourselves, and The Allstate Corporation. Designed in partnership with communities and advisers around the country, the project synthesizes three dimensions (historical context, emotional intelligence, recognizing power) and five principles of a Better Argument (take winning off the table, prioritize relationships and listen passionately, pay attention to context, embrace vulnerability, and make room to transform). 

Educators and school leaders can bring Better Arguments to their students using the free Better Arguments school curriculum and student workbook to produce good work. The organization also provides a free brainstorming guide to help educators consider how Better Arguments can apply to their community, along with best practices for facilitation.

ABA Preview in the Classroom

The American Bar Association (ABA) Division for Public Education's Preview in the Classroom features current cases before the court each month with a modified case study and focus questions for classroom use.  Cases so far this term include: 

These resources provide #CivicsinTheMiddle classrooms opportunities to engage in current and societal issue discussions and moot court simulations aligned with the 6-8 and 9-12 civics course requirements.

Visit Preview in the Classroom and follow the ABA Division for Public Education on social media to get updates as new cases emerge.

Good Bye Adobe Flash- Updates for iCivics Games

As of December 31, 2020, Adobe Flash will no longer be supported by many web browsers. iCivics has been working for over a year to transition their games from Flash to the latest platform. Most have been updated, but a few will be removed from the iCivics website until they can be upgraded:  Activate, Crisis of Nations, People’s Pie, and Supreme Decision.

Sadly, iCivics will be saying a final good-bye to four games on December 31: Power Play, Responsibility Launcher, Represent Me, We the Jury. iCivics has put together a crosswalk of other iCivics resources that cover similar content since these games will no longer be available.

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 micro-credentials in the proven practice of current and controversial issue discussions in the classroom.

Participants will create a Portfolio of Practice throughout the course, exploring:  
  • The benefits of a student to student discussion
  • Various discussion strategies with demonstration videos and classroom-ready guides
  • How to navigate common obstacles and concerns from parents and administrators
  • Tools for online learning to incorporate in classrooms.   
The winter cohort will begin on January 5th. Educators can express their interest at the Guardians of Democracy homepage. Those who complete the 5-week online course will earn a Bronze Certified Guardian of Democracy Educator badge via Badgr and the University of Central Florida Center for Distributive Learning. Participants are also eligible for 15 PD hours through the Illinois Civic Mission coalition for FREE. 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 will be offered later in the year. Register through the Guardians of Democracy homepage.

NewsLitCamp with CNN Worldwide

Our Civic Learning Partner at the News Literacy Project (NLP) is hosting a free virtual NewsLit Camp on January 26th, 2021, with CNN Worldwide.

NewsLitCamp is a unique opportunity for middle and high school educators and librarians to connect with journalists in their local newsroom and hone their ability to teach students how to sort fact from fiction. You can listen to educators and journalists who have participated in NewsLitCamp in this engaging and brief video.

So, how does NewsLitCamp stand out?
  • NLP asks for your input to make sure they address topics that are most relevant (register now to put in your two cents!).
  • NLP focuses on news literacy education and offers sessions led by reporters and editors, including examining how journalism works, discussing news media bias, and even learning digital forensics.
  • NLP provides participants with a unique opportunity to connect directly with journalists at CNN and learn more about how to help students navigate our increasingly complex information landscape.
Keep your school year exciting. Register now!

Free Online Courses from National Geographic

National Geographic’s free online courses for educators equip teachers with powerful tools to transform their classrooms. Through these courses, educators build their own skills and knowledge so they can foster the mindset of a National Geographic Explorer in their students. National Geographic online professional learning courses vary in their lengths and schedules so that busy educators can find a program that fits their needs.

In many courses, learners can earn graduate credits through National Geographic's university partnerships. Available courses include:
  • National Geographic Educator Certification
  • Connecting the Geo-Inquiry Process to your Teaching Practice
  • Teaching Global Climate Change in Your Classroom
  • Collecting Data to Explore Plastic Pollution in our Communities
  • Mapping as a Visualization and Communication Tool in Your Classroom
  • Integrating Service with Learning Tools
  • Storytelling for Impact in Your Classroom:  Photography
Visit National Geographic for details.

Strategies to Reflect, Recalibrate and Renew Goals in the New Year

The New Year marks a fresh start for many classrooms as one semester ends, and a new classroom journey begins. Taking time to engage student voices to reflect on their experiences in the fall, recalibrate classroom practices to create routines for success, and engage in a collective renewal of goals for the 2021 spring semester can be a helpful endeavor in traditional, remote, or hybrid classrooms. Visible Thinking Routines from Project Zero like Color, Symbol, Image, 3-2-1 Bridge, and Claim, Support, Question can be useful tools to start the process.

Facing History and Ourselves joined with Story Corps to design an experience that gives students space to reflect on how the changes that occurred over the last year have impacted them and their loved ones. The activities provide guides for students to conduct an interview with a friend, family member, or classmate who they cannot see in person as a way to reflect on the events of 2020 and connect when travel and gatherings are restricted.

We asked our Instructional Coaches how they plan to reflect, recalibrate, and renew goals in 2021.  Here are their ideas.

Alia Bluemlein:  I love the idea of setting goals using the #OneWord- they set an intention for the second semester/year with this one word. Students can then touch base with you throughout the semester during mini-conferences to discuss how they are achieving their goals (which is a great way to differentiate/meet the needs of each student). Region: Boone, Northern Cook, Lake, McHenry,  & Winnebago Counties
 Region: Boone, Northern Cook, Lake, McHenry,  & Winnebago Counties  

Candace Fikis:  Just as many of us make New Year’s Resolutions, I have students write some academic resolutions for the new year. I ask that one is about student academic goals that could be about improving a grade, better assignment completion, performances on tests, quizzes, presentations, etc., and one about work ethic such as being better organized, using student planners, doing schoolwork without distractions, seeking help when needed, etc. Region: Southern Cook, Grundy, Iroquois, Kankakee, Kendall & Will Counties

Bonnie Laughlin-Schultz: I wonder about using the Compass Point Reflection (From Project Zero Visible Thinking)--new to me from one of our #CivicsInTheMiddle training--to help students think particularly in this pandemic year about continued challenges as well as things that are exciting in moving forward. I might tweak the names of the four points just a bit to better get students to do goal-setting for the semester.   Region:  Clark, Clay, Coles, Crawford, Cumberland, Douglas, Edgar, Edwards, Gallatin, Hamilton, Hardin, Jasper, Lawrence, Massac, Moultrie, Pope, Richland, Saline, Shelby, Wabash, Wayne & White Counties

Corie Yow- Revisit the classroom norms by having students create/fill in a “looks like/ sounds like/ feels like chart.” This helps students to reflect on previous classroom routines and behaviors and identify those concrete ways to follow through with classroom norms/expectations. Region: Bond, Calhoun, Christian, Effingham, Fayette, Greene, Jersey, Macoupin, Madison, Menard, Montgomery & Sangamon Counties 

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 #CivicsInTheMiddle success stories. For weekly updates on emerging research on civics, "teachable moments," and related materials, follow our blog.

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