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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.

Updated Curriculum Design Toolkit

An updated and expanded Curriculum Design Toolkit is now available to help classrooms implement the proven practices of civic education outlined in the 6-8 and 9-12 civics course requirements. The new toolkit provides an overview of pedagogy and resources aligned to:

The Curriculum Design Toolkit also provides resources to create a Safe and Reflective Classroom, which is a foundation for ALL civics instruction.

How are you doing in implementing the Illinois civics course requirements? Take either the 6-8 civics course audit or 9-12 civics course audit and visit the Curriculum Design Toolkit to enhance your current practice.

Attend the Educating for American Democracy Virtual Forum

Civic education plays an important role in equipping “we the people” to work towards a “more perfect union.” To support the civic mission of schools, more than 300 educators and scholars from across ideological and geographic boundaries have been working for longer than 17 months to create a framework for powerful civics and history instruction in K-12 schools. The Educating for American Democracy Roadmap and report provides guidance about what and how to teach integrated K-12 history and civics for today’s learners—at a time when our country needs it the most.

Educators across the nation are invited to register and attend the Educating for American Democracy National Forum on March 2, 2021, from 2:00-3:45 pm CT for the launch of the roadmap and report. The event will be moderated by Judy Woodruff, anchor and managing editor of PBS NewsHour, and will feature a range of distinguished scholars and educators.

The Educating for American Democracy Roadmap will provide additional support to districts to implement the Illinois K-12 Social Science standards and civic course requirements with resources, strategies, and vertically-aligned questions for inquiry that address today’s curricular design challenges. 

Illinois Civics will be hosting a follow-up webinar to explicitly make these connections on Wednesday, April 28, 2021, from 3:30-4:30 CT.  You can register for this and other professional development opportunities on the Illinois Civics PD calendar.

Resources for Women’s History Month

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the roots of National Women’s History Month go back to March 8, 1857, when women from various New York City factories staged a protest over working conditions. The first Women's Day celebration in the United States was also in New York City in 1909, but Congress did not establish National Women's History Week until 1981, to be commemorated annually the second week of March. In 1987, Congress expanded the week to a month. Every year since Congress has passed a resolution for Women’s History Month, and the president has issued a proclamation. These proclamations celebrate the contributions women have made to the history of the United States and recognize the specific achievements women have made in a variety of fields. 

How do you plan to commemorate the contributions women have made to our constitutional republic in the month of March and beyond?  Here are some resources you can start with:

  • The Library of Congress, National Archives and Records Administration, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Park Service, Smithsonian Institution, and United States Holocaust Memorial Museum have created a joint Women’s History Month Site with resources to encourage the study, observance, and celebration of the vital role of women in American history.
  • Share My Lesson has an archive of lesson plans that can be filtered by topic and grade level.
  • PBS Learning Media has gathered resources to celebrate the contributions of women in history with film and curriculum.
  • EDSITEment has a teacher’s guide to Women’s History in the United States.

A User’s Guide to Democracy: How America Works with Nick and Hannah from Civics 101

Join the #CivicsInTheMiddle community on Thursday, May 6 from 6–7 p.m. CT for a lively discussion with Hannah McCarthy and Nick Capodice, producers and hosts of the New Hampshire Public Radio Civics 101 Podcast. Nick and Hannah will share insights they gained from writing their book, A Users Guide to Democracy: How America Works, and answer your questions about our constitutional republic. Participants are not required to read the book to participate in this conversation. You can register for this and other events on the Professional Development calendar.

Law Day 2021

The 2021 Law Day theme is “Advancing the Rule of Law Now.” The American Bar Association (ABA) is kicking off preparation for Law Day with a free webinar on March 3, 2021, from 3–4 p.m. CT. You can register now for this virtual event, featuring ABA President Patricia Refo and other expert speakers. The event will also showcase K-12 programming options suitable for a virtual world in the wake of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Law Day is celebrated annually on May 1. The Division for Public Education at the American Bar Association explains, “The rule of law is the bedrock of American rights and liberties—in times of calm and unrest alike. The 2021 Law Day theme—” Advancing the Rule of Law, Now”—reminds all of us that we the people share the responsibility to promote the rule of law, defend liberty, and pursue justice.” Educators can sign up to receive updates on new resources and materials to support the commemoration of Law Day.

Law Day 2021 Youth Civics Contest

The United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois and the Chicago Chapter of the Federal Bar Association are sponsoring their inaugural Law Day Youth Civics Contest. Students enrolled in grades 6–12 are invited to submit a video recording that answers the question, “Why are the courts important?” Videos may not exceed two minutes and must be the original work of the student/students. 

Submissions will be accepted Monday, March 1 through Wednesday, March 31, 2021, at 11:59 p.m. Entries will be judged on how well they demonstrate an understanding of constitutional principles, clarity and effectiveness in expressing the theme, and originality/creativity. The fillable entry form with contest details is available at this link. Video entries and entry forms must be submitted here.  For more information, please contact

Are YOU the next American Lawyers Alliance Law-Related Educator of the Year?

The American Lawyers Alliance (ALA) is now accepting applications for Law-Related Educator of the Year.  Applications for the 2021 ALA Law-Related Education Teacher of the Year Awards may be submitted by the applicant, school administrators, other teachers, students, lawyers, judges, professional members of the community, or any other interested party. At the Annual Meeting of the American Lawyers Alliance, each of the three winners will be presented with a certificate and a $3,000 award. An additional $500 for hotel and travel expenses will be given to each recipient who attends the Awards Luncheon. Visit the American Lawyers Alliance website for more information.

Putting #CivicsInTheMiddle: Spring 2021 Professional Development

Join this spring for a timely series of webinars that put a spotlight on local, state, and federal issues as well as the institutions of power that 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 students in civic inquiry aligned with the 6-8 and 9-12 civic course requirements. Those who register can join in person or be sent a recording post-webinar. Illinois educators can earn two hours of professional development credit through the Illinois Civics Hub at the DuPage Regional Office of Education for viewing the webinar and completing an application activity. Listed below are the upcoming webinars:

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

KQED Engineering for Good 

The KQED Youth Media Challenge, “Engineering for Good,” invites students to use the engineering design process to address a problem that matters to them and make visual media to share their solutions. This project engages student voices to address real-world problems and reach an audience beyond their classrooms! Learn more about the challenge here.
Strategies for Remote and Hybrid Learning from Facing History and Ourselves

Facing History and Ourselves has adapted a collection of teaching strategies to support online learning, with a focus on sustaining community; supporting students; and creating engaging, meaningful learning experiences. Julie Halterman, a current events writer at the organization says, “Hybrid and remote teaching requires educators to navigate new ways to connect with students during an immensely challenging and uncertain time in our communities when students’ (and teachers’ own) social-emotional needs are just as critical as academic goals.” Halterman’s blog details eleven strategies for remote and hybrid learning that will enhance classroom practices.

Apply for the American History and Civics Academies

This summer, from July 5–23, the American History and Civics Academies will provide teachers and students with free, high-quality educational engagement. The Presidential Academy for secondary school teachers and the Congressional Academy for high-need students will immerse participants in the study of constitutional history and principles following the intellectual framework of the We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution curriculum. This year the Center for Civic Education is taking this immersive experience into a virtual setting. Participants will have the opportunity to collaborate with peers and participate in interactive discussions and activities, including a simulated congressional hearing. Learning will be enhanced with virtual field trips to the National Park Service and other historical sites. Applications are now being accepted! The deadline to apply is April 1, 2021.

Dig into Primary Sources with iCivics DBQuests

Document-based questions (DBQs) can be a challenge both for educators to curate and for students to engage with. DBQuest takes care of both. This iCivics primary source analysis tool introduces students to big ideas in civics and history. Students are presented with a Big Question to use as a guiding light as they examine three primary resources. Document–based supporting questions challenge students to dig into each artifact to find the relevant information. You can find out more about DBQuests to support literacy and civic inquiry in your classroom.

Civics 101 Podcast Annual Student Contest

The theme of the 4th Annual Student Contest sponsored by the Civics 101 Podcast is “There Oughta Be a Law.”  K-12 students are invited to record a one-to-two minute clip, audio, or video, using the following prompts:

  • Share your name and where you’re from
  • “There ought to be a law about ____”
  • “This is a problem because ____”
  • And finally, how your law will solve that problem.

No idea is too small and no idea is too big. This can be a proposed rule for your school or a law for your state. The winning entries will air on the Civics 101 national podcast. Students or their teachers can send files to by March 31, 2021. 

The First Division Museum hosts Virtual Date with History: Battle of Attu

The First Division Museum at Cantigny Park is hosting Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Mark Obmascik on March 18 at 7 p.m. CT to discuss his national bestseller, The Storm on Our Shores: One Island, Two Soldiers, and the Forgotten Battle of World War II.  

Featured on 60 Minutes, The Storm on Our Shores is the heart-wrenching but an ultimately redemptive story of two World War II soldiers—a Japanese surgeon and an American sergeant—during a brutal Alaskan battle in which the sergeant discovers the medic’s revelatory and fascinating diary that changed our war-torn society’s perceptions of Japan. Register for the zoom event. Illinois teachers may also register to obtain the Professional Development from the First Division Museum website.

RISE Challenge Illinois

The Environmental Education Association of Illinois has teamed up with Earth Force, Federal Emergency Management Agency Region 5, and the Association of State Floodplain Managers Foundation, to create RISE Challenge Illinois.

The mission of RISE Challenge Illinois is to create a generation with the knowledge, skills, and motivation to improve community resilience to natural disasters. Part inquiry-based learning, part competition, and part summit, RISE Challenge Illinois engages students in exploring their local communities to identify real-world environmental issues and develop solutions and action plans for making their communities more resilient. There is no cost for schools or students to participate.

Visit RISE Challenge for more information.

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

We the Students Essay Contest from the Bill of Rights Institute

Students are invited to participate in the Bill of Rights Institute (BRI) annual We the Students essay contest. This year’s prompt is, What is the relationship between Equality and Justice? Student prizes range from $500 to 7,500.

Students in grades 8-12 are invited to explore this question in an essay, written with 500–-800 words, and goes “beyond dictionary definitions” and expresses understanding and reasoning about the connection between these two principles. This reasoning involves a combination of observation, experience, and some pretty big ideas.

Essays are due on or before April 15th, 2021. For more details, visit the BRI Contest website.

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 until April 2021.  

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

Oyez, Oyez, Oyez! Resources to Teach about the Supreme Court of the United States

While Article III of the U.S. Constitution succinctly outlines the parameters of the federal court system, helping students “read between the lines” and understand judicial review can be daunting. We asked our Illinois Civics Instructional Coaches for their favorite resources to teach about the judicial branch and the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS).  Here are their recommendations.

Jason Artman: “PBS Learning Media has a number of lessons on the Supreme Court, many linked to PBS videos as well. This lesson addresses the importance of precedent at the Supreme Court, a topic I’ve found I really need to explain to students as they struggle with the idea that the Supreme Court does not operate like courts on the Law and Order TV series.” Jason also created a US Supreme Court Analysis Guide for students to use to research a case for an in-depth discussion. Region: Bureau, Henry, LaSalle, Marshall, Mason, Peoria, Putnam, Stark, Tazewell & Woodford Counties

Christopher Johnson: “Landmark Cases from Street Law is a great tool to look at key cases from the past. The cases have multiple levels of reading level for differentiation.”  For more advanced students, Chris uses Oyez. Region: Adams, Brown, Cass, Fulton, Hancock, Henderson, Knox, McDonough, Mercer, Morgan, Pike, Schuyler, Scott & Warren Counties

Bonnie Laughlin-Schultz: “I like SCOTUS Blog to follow the current term, and also get a quick sense of the role of amicus briefs, etc. by looking at actual cases in the works. I have also used some of iCivics resources around the Supreme Court. I like Supreme Interpreters in particular.  If anyone would want to look at the recent Flowers v. Mississippi case, especially useful given its discussion of race in the criminal justice system, 60 Minutes did a great interview with the now-free Curtis Flowers, and the In the Dark series about his is amazing - detailed information on jury selection in particular. (Street Law also has materials on that case from last year).” Region: Clark, Clay, Coles, Crawford, Cumberland, Douglas, Edgar, Edwards, Gallatin, Hamilton, Hardin, Jasper, Lawrence, Massac, Moultrie, Pope, Richland, Saline, Shelby, Wabash, Wayne & White Counties

Heather Monson:  “Do your students love graphic novels? Why not use a graphic novel from the Supreme Court of Ohio to help your students understand court proceedings and cases.  Graphic novels include topics young teens are interested in such as bullying, jury duty, and a friend who breaks a gaming system. US Courts offers lesson plans, interactive games, videos, and is an excellent resource for the basics about the court. It offers interesting resources for educators and informative sites for students. Read, Write, Think has an excellent lesson on Civil Liberties and the Supreme Court. This is a great place to seek ways for students to dig deeper into civil liberties. What about asking a local judge to visit your classroom? They could zoom into your class! Here is some information from the Constitutional Rights Foundation to help your students prepare for a guest speaker. Annenberg Classroom is an excellent resource for videos, podcasts, and small summaries of various aspects of the Constitution and SCOTUS.  This is a link to many of the cases they offer with videos, summaries, and connections. Women Who Shaped The Court is a great way to examine how the court has been influenced by its female judges.” Region:  Carroll, Jo Daviess, Lee, Ogle, Rock Island, Stephenson & Whiteside Counties

Logan Ridenour:  “SCOTUS in the Classroom provides teachers with relevant cases that are currently in the court.  These are student-friendly and are resourced in a way that makes conducting a moot court approachable for students.” Region: Alexander, Clinton, Franklin, Jackson, Jefferson, Johnson, Marion, Monroe, Perry, Pulaski, Randolph, St. Clair, Union, Washington & Williamson Counties

Corie Yow:  “The Constitutional Rights Foundation provides a list of lesson plans to be used with the Bill of Rights and the Supreme Court. The New York Times and the Learning Network provide resources to address questions about the Supreme Court. The Classroom Law Project provides a list of Supreme Court Cases for and about students.” 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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