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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.

The Educating for American Democracy Roadmap and Student Design Challenge

Civics education plays an important role in equipping “we the people” to work toward a “more perfect union.” To support the civic mission of schools, more than 300 educators and scholars from across ideological and geographic boundaries worked for 17 months to create a framework for powerful civics and history instruction in K-12 schools. The Educating for American Democracy (EAD) Roadmap and Report provide 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.  

The EAD Roadmap provides support to districts to implement the Illinois K-12 Social Science standards and civics course requirements with resources, a pedagogy guide, and vertically-aligned themes for inquiry that address today’s curricular design challenges.

The EAD Roadmap is hosting a K-12 Student Design Challenge Contest that requires students to grapple with complex questions in civics and history—those that most would agree do not have a clear or right answer. Students will create original artwork to share their ideas for a chance to win a cash prize and have their original artwork featured on the Educating for American Democracy website. For details, visit the contest webpage.

Stop APIA Hate

On the evening of March 16th, eight people were murdered in horrific shootings in the Atlanta area.  Six of the victims were of Asian descent. The Illinois Civics Hub mourns with the families and friends of loved ones who were lost in the attacks. We are in solidarity with our friends in the Asian and Pacific Islander community who are fearful and grieving because of this and other hateful assaults on their community.  

When tragedy and violence occur, classrooms become an important venue for students to process current events, clarify facts, and ask questions. A number of civics learning providers have responded with resources to help educators support students in these troubling times.

To access for resources to support the APIA community, access our recent blog and join us this May for events to honor APIA Heritage Month.

Putting #CivicsInTheMiddle: Spring 2021 Professional Development  

Join this spring for a timely series of webinars to support the implementation of the middle and high school civics course requirements. Each one-hour webinar will take place on a Wednesday from 3:30–4:30 p.m. CT and will connect educators with resources to engage students in civic inquiry. 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 civics learning partners, please visit our Professional Development Calendar.

SCOTUS Takes Up Free Speech in Schools  

The Illinois civics course requirements at both middle and high school require students to discuss current and societal issues to apply their knowledge of democratic institutions through civil discourse around essential questions facing our republic. A case was taken up by the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) this term, Mahanoy v. B.L. is sure to animate many #CivicsInTheMiddle classrooms with the case of a cheerleader removed from the squad for her Snapchat postings. This case will determine whether Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District, which holds that public school officials may regulate speech that would materially and substantially disrupt the work and discipline of the school, applies to student speech that occurs off-campus.

There are a plethora of resources available to seize this teachable moment and engage students in inquiry around issues of power, freedom, safety, and justice. 

Kids Citizenship Contest  

Students aged 8–18 are invited to take on the role of the President of the United States of America and record a 2–3-minute presidential address that shares their vision for the country and responds to these queries:
  • What is your plan for the next four years? 
  • How will you change America? 
  • How will you inspire your fellow citizens? 
Contests will be judged by a celebrity panel (image right) in two age categories, 8-12 and 13-18. 1st prize in each contest & category: $1000 | 2nd: $750 | 3rd: $500. Visit the contest website for more information.

2021 Teacher Video Journalism Workshop with PBS
PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs (SRL) is hosting a 3day virtual workshop from July 21–23 to prepare new teachers—and teachers interested in strengthening their media production and journalism skills—for a successful year with SRL. Teachers will learn different strategies for aligning to the SRL project-based learning program through a range of activities to help students find their voices inside and outside of the classroom. More information can be found on the workshop application.

TRUST ME Available on Kanopy  

TRUST ME is a feature-length documentary exploring human nature, information technology, and the need for media literacy to help people trust one another, bring them together, and create a more resilient population. The full-length feature is now available through Kanopy. The News Literacy Project created a classroom guide for educators to support classroom inquiry into manipulation and misinformation. There is also a discussion guide for adults to use in professional learning communities.

iCivics Ranked Choice Voting Infographic  

In recent weeks, the Illinois Civics Hub has hosted webinars reflecting on the lessons learned from the 2020 elections as well as current public policy initiatives around voting rights and election security. If you missed these events, you can review the webinars and resources by accessing our Webinar Archive.

Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) is a popular reform advocated by many to make elections fair. According to Ballotpedia, RCV is:

an electoral system in which voters rank candidates by preference on their ballots. If a candidate wins a majority of first-preference votes, he or she is declared the winner. If no candidate wins a majority of first-preference votes, the candidate with the fewest first-preference votes is eliminated. First-preference votes cast for the failed candidate are eliminated, lifting the second-preference choices indicated on those ballots. A new tally is conducted to determine whether any candidate has won a majority of the adjusted votes. The process is repeated until a candidate wins an outright majority. 

Sound confusing? iCivics has created a new infographic with a lesson plan to help students analyze ranked-choice voting to discern if they think this system is right for their community. Check it out today!

Applications Open for 2021 Sphere Summit  

The Cato Institute and the Sphere Education Initiative are excited to announce the return of Sphere Summit for the Summer of 2021! Sphere Summit, a full‐​scholarship professional development program for grades 5–12 educators, will be offered both June 27–July 1 and July 25–July 29. The Summit will offer a hybrid experience, which will allow for both in-person and online attendance.

The Sphere Summit features presentations by leading policymakers, scholars, and academics, who discuss key public policy issues facing our nation today. The Summit also features professional development workshops conducted by leaders in civics education. 

The Sphere Summit aims to restore a spirit of civil, constructive, and respectful discourse and engagement and to return facts, analysis, and research to primacy as the vehicles for discussion and debate. For more information, visit the Sphere Education Initiative homepage at the CATO Institute.

Heard About RegiStart?  

RegiStart aims to increase voter registration for high school students and provides high school classrooms with resources to support this. With RegiStart, schools have experienced a 300% increase in voter registration among eligible students in just one week! Interested in using this classroom resource?  Join their Spring 2021 program by emailing

C-SPAN Fellowship Program
C-SPAN's Fellowship program is designed for middle and high school educators who are familiar with C-SPAN’s programs and can demonstrate innovative methods of incorporating these programs into the classroom. This year C-SPAN will select up to five fellows to collaborate with the Education Relations team to develop new teaching materials. Each selected C-SPAN Fellow will:

  • Work remotely with the team from July 5–July 30 to create new educational resources
  • Develop content using C-SPAN programs that will be hosted on the C-SPAN Classroom or StudentCam websites
  • Participate in C-SPAN’s Virtual Summer Educators’ Conferences (Dates to be determined.)
  • Receive a stipend of $1,000 for their time, work, and participation in the program

If you are interested in participating in the program, please complete the application and submit your resume to by Friday, May 7, 2021.

2021 Illinois Youth Summit

The Illinois Youth Summit gives students an informed voice in discussions about current issues that affect them and provides an opportunity for students to explore and debate these issues as participants in our democratic society. This year's topic, "What Does 'Defund the Police' Mean?" was selected based on the response from students when asked what they wished to discuss. This is a unique opportunity to meet with students from other schools around Illinois and to talk about these issues with policy experts.

Registration to the Summit is open to 8th-grade students as well as high school students. Please contact Dee Runaas at if you have any questions.

OnWord Student Writing Competition

Writers and their work have been part of massive changes in our history. From Alexander Hamilton to Ida B. Wells, writers' works have a huge impact on how people see the world. The OnWord Student Writing Competition invites teachers to submit entries from their students on how they would use writing to create the change they want to see in the world and explore it in any form of writing that works for them: an essay, a short story, a poem, a play, a song.

The deadline to submit is June 15, 2021. Winners will be notified by July 15, 2021. The competition is broken down into three grade ranges with two winners in each category:

  • Elementary (Grades 3-5): Two winners receive a $500 prize
  • Middle School (Grades 6-8): Two winners receive a $1,000 prize
  • High School (Grades 9-12): Two winners receive a $2,000 prize

Full details, guidelines, and instructions on how to enter can be found on the OnWord website or by downloading this PDF. Email with questions.

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. The theme for this series is “Every Teacher is a Civics Teacher: Best Practices for Civic Learning and Organizational Supports.” To close out the spring series, topics include:

Register using the links above.  

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.

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, that 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.

Reflecting on the Educating for American Democracy Roadmap

The new Educating for American Democracy (EAD) Roadmap and report provide a plethora of resources for educators to peruse and incorporate into their current classroom practice. The available materials can be overwhelming! We asked some of our Illinois Civics Instructional Coaches what they found most compelling and instructive about the EAD Roadmap and report. Perhaps their reflections will give you a place to start.

Alia Bluemlein: “One of my favorite components of the EAD Roadmap is the key concept of exploring the relationships between hard histories and contemporary debates, which is followed up with the historical driving question: How can your learning of U.S. history suggest strategies for how to address our shared contemporary problems? One of my continued goals as an educator is to make things relevant for my students and throughout the curriculum and our studies to really highlight why we should care. This is rooting what we study with an understanding that it can inform us with regards to what’s going on today. This is also a great springboard for diving into civics with students.” Region: Boone, Northern Cook, Lake, McHenry, & Winnebago Counties
Christopher Johnson: “The U.S. Constitution is the owner's manual for the entire nation and should be at the center of any civics-related curriculum in the United States.  The tools and resources included in the EAD Roadmap will help 21st-century civics educators develop meaningful instruction on the U.S. Constitution, its formation, and relevancy to the nation today. It will help us get away from the traditional memorization of the text of the document and the old test that used to go along with this task. Instead, it will help guide educators in developing a meaningful curriculum that helps students understand the significance of the U.S. Constitution and the core values of American democracy.” Region: Adams, Brown, Cass, Fulton, Hancock, Henderson, Knox, McDonough, Mercer, Morgan, Pike, Schuyler, Scott & Warren Counties

Bonnie Laughlin-Schultz:” I really appreciate Design Principle 4, that calls on teaching to be rooted in inquiry, and inquiry specifically around Theme 7, A People with Contemporary Debates and Possibilities. I love how it integrates history and civics with asking teachers and students to investigate, ‘how historical narratives shape current political arguments… and ‘how the American people continue to renew or remake themselves in pursuing the fulfillment of the promise of constitutional democracy.’ I think this illustrates perfectly the value of bringing history and civics into the conversation, giving students additional historical evidence and context for discussion of current events.” Region: Clark, Clay, Coles, Crawford, Cumberland, Douglas, Edgar, Edwards, Gallatin, Hamilton, Hardin, Jasper, Lawrence, Massac, Moultrie, Pope, Richland, Saline, Shelby, Wabash, Wayne & White Counties
Matthew Wood: “I greatly appreciate the EAD Roadmap’s Theme #5: Institutional and Social Transformation - A Series of Refoundings? In our modern period of storm and strife over how to explain our complicated past, this theme really encapsulates how our transformation from a slave-owning agrarian society evolved into our modern world and how each change out of that origin story brought a renewed sense of what it means to be an American. Particularly strong is the Roadmap’s identification of key concepts of each theme as well as the very helpful 'driving questions' section that can inspire educators like me to see where these themes can go. Region: Central Cook, DeKalb, DuPage & Kane 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 civics 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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