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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.

Bringing Closure to an Unprecedented School Year  

As the 2019-2020 school year draws to a close, students and educators have an opportunity to process and bring closure to an unprecedented school year. This vital work can be difficult "at a distance." Our friends at Facing History and Ourselves recommend making time for your students to reflect on what they experienced and its impact on their lives, celebrate successes, and look ahead to their hopes and apprehensions for the summer. Below are some resources to help your classroom find closure.



  • Have students express appreciation for those who were their champions this school year. This could include teachers, staff, friends, and family. These can be written expressions of gratitude, or allow students to be creative through art, song, memes, or other forms of expression.
  • If you have the digital resources, leverage technology for celebration, create a word cloud using Wordle, Answer Garden, or Mentimeter to display what was accomplished graphically. You could also use FlipGrid, Padlet, or Google Docs to support student expression.

Look Ahead

  • Allow students to share what they look forward to in the summer, and a chance to share apprehensions they have about missed opportunities relating to employment, travel, recreation, and other losses.  Then, use some of the sentence starters provided by Facing History and Ourselves to help students process and be proactive in meeting the challenges summer may bring.
  • Many of the Thinking Routines from Project Zero for Digging Deeper and Possibilities can frame this conversation.

Before you engage students in reflection, celebration, and looking ahead, take time to do this yourself independently or with a trusted friend. Process the school year and then be present for your students. Put Maslow before Bloom. You will NOT have all of the answers or solutions for what is shared by your students, but you can listen, empathize, and create a safe environment for students to do the same.

Civics In The Middle Online Summer PD Series

It is not too late to register for summer PD series to support the 6-12 civics mandates. Join the McCormick Foundation and the Illinois Civics Instructional Coaches for a series of webinars designed to enhance teacher practice with the content knowledge and proven methods of civic education.

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, and participants can elect to earn two PD credits per webinar for completing a post-webinar application activity.

A description for each webinar and Information to register for the free professional development credits through the DuPage Regional Office of Education is available through the registration links below.

Civics in the Middle Online PD Schedule

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

New Resource:  Election 2020 Toolkit

This spring, hosted a series of webinars to help educators #Teach2020.  Throughout the series, each webinar concluded with resources and ideas for teachers to use in their classroom to support the proven practices of civic education in this teachable moment. We collected these ideas in our new Election 2020 Toolkit, which provides classrooms with content to address:   

  • Why Vote?
  • Why Engage Students in Voting and Elections?
  • The Nomination Process
  • The General Election and Electoral College
  • Initiatives and Referendums
  • Information Literacy Related to Elections
  • Researching Candidates
  • Historical Contexts of Elections
  • The Impact of COVID-19 on Elections
  • The Illinois Graduated Income Tax Amendment 

There are a plethora of ideas and strategies in the toolkit to support the use of current and societal issue discussions, simulations of democratic processes, and service-learning during the election season. Check out the Election 2020 Toolkit today.

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.

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 7 and run through July 10. 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 Credle and the University of Central Florida Center for Distributive Learning. Participants can receive 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.

AllSides Launches New Facts and Fact-Checking Portal  

Our friends at AllSides recently launched a new AllSides Facts and Fact-Checking Portal to "curate a balanced spread of the latest fact check articles, in-depth research reports, investigations, and more." This is a welcome addition to our growing arsenal of media literacy tools we curated for remote learning and teaching the 2020 election. Be sure to check it out.

Educating for Informed and Equitable Voting  

The Center for Information and Research on Civic Engagement and Learning (CIRCLE) and the Civic Engagement Research Group (CERG) are joining forces to facilitate a FREE six-week online course, Educating for Informed and Equitable Voting.  Course content is aligned to the proven practices of civic education delineated in the grades 6-12 civic mandates.  Participants will explore current and societal issues related to access to voting, get connected to free resources to help students understand the democratic process of voting, as well as ideas for informed action through service learning in the upcoming election. The course will run from June 15- July 26, 2020. To register for the course, click here.

Summer Reading from our Illinois Civics Instructional Coaches
Summer is a time for many of us to relax, reflect, and recalibrate after a demanding school year.  Reading for pleasure or your personal, professional development is a welcome respite for many educators.  We asked our regional civics, instructional coaches, for their reading recommendations, including both civics and non-civics related themes.  Here are their picks. 

Alia Bluemlein- Civics Pick:  Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Jason Reynolds and Ibram Kendi  This book is an adaptation of Ibram Kendi's acclaimed novel Stamped From the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America, published in 2016. Jason Reynolds, award-winning YA author, took Kendi's work and wrote it with his unique cadence. The book is a great resource to delve into African American history and social stratification--it can be read piecemeal or in totality and serves as a high starting point for some authentic inquiry practices and taking informed action. 

Non-Civics Pick:  Hellhound on His Trail: The Stalking of Martin Luther King Jr. and the International Hunt for His Assassin by Hampton Sides. Sides does a phenomenal job of putting together narrative elements within his nonfiction, keeping the reader engaged throughout the novel. I loved the duality of the book--chapters flip from the well-known plight of MLK during the Civil Rights Movement and leading up to the Memphis labor strike to the lesser-known assassin's actions leading up to the events of April 4, 1968. 
Region: Boone, Northern Cook, Lake, McHenry,  and Winnebago Counties  

Tracy Freeman- Civics Pick:
My Own Words by Ruth B. Ginsberg and by Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Mary Hartnett (With), Wendy W. Williams (With) This book reviews the background of RBG then discusses several pivotal cases in the Supreme Court. RBG reads many of the later chapters with her insight into how and why the opinions are written (or NOT). The book focuses on critical cases as well as her friendship with Scalia (and the process of getting nominated to the courts). 
Non-Civics Pick: Glennon Doyle Untamed. This book is about a woman encouraging other women to support each other. It centers through the question, how to live your life for you (and family) and not for pleasing the masses? I suggested both of my teen daughters read!
Region: Champaign, DeWitt, Ford, Livingston, Logan, Macon, McLean, Piatt & Vermillion Counties  

Bonnie Laughlin-Schultz- Civics Pick:  
Ari Berman, Give Us the Ballot: The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights. This book came out a few years ago but is an essential read about the modern fight for voting rights -- and the persistent battle of some to suppress the freedom of others to vote. Berman gives a vivid history leading up to the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and then highlights the continued battle over the vote through Shelby v. Holder. With discussion of mail-in ballots, voting rights, and the continued legacy of Shelby v. Holder as we head into the 2020 election, this is an especially compelling read.

Non-Civics Pick: Alexis Coe, You Never Forget Your First: A Biography of George Washington. This is a compelling and cheeky new biography of George Washington. The book is short and lively, approaching what we think we have always known about Washington from new (and deliberately female) perspectives. Coe is provocative as she tears down myths (such as Washington's wooden teeth), looks at the hard truths of our nation's history, and confronts what it means to have a woman approach a biography of a person almost always studied by men.
Region: Clark, Clay, Coles, Crawford, Cumberland, Douglas, Edgar, Edwards, Gallatin, Hamilton, Hardin, Jasper, Lawrence, Massac, Moultrie, Pope, Richland, Saline, Shelby, Wabash, Wayne & White Counties

Matt Wood- Civics Pick:
Relic: How Our Constitution Undermines Effective Government and Why We Need a More Powerful Presidency by William G. Howell and Terry M. Moe, was published in 2016 the summer before the election. Howell and Moe discuss in their book, Relic, their idea that the President should be given more authority and power in the lawmaking process, beyond simple approval. I had the chance to discuss this thesis with William Howell in 2017, where he still maintained his belief that Executive authority should be expanded, but that he and Moe did not anticipate this thesis in the hands of a populist President. A fun practice in "what if" Civics, this book explores how things might look if different had the founders chosen a more parliamentary system. 

Non-Civics Pick: Spearhead: An American Tank Gunner, His Enemy, and a Collision of Lives In World War II by Adam Makos. Makos grew up fascinated by World War II and the personal stories of those who lived the experience. His research and excellent literary skills make this a compelling book that puts you in the seat of one of the most modern tanks in the Allied armed forces (the Pershing) while also following the intersecting life story of a German tanker who would meet his foe in a climatic (and historically verifiable) moment in the final months of World War 2. 
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 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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