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Why Civic Education Matters in Upper Elementary

In upper elementary classrooms, it is important that students are taught about civic education. It is the responsibility of the older generations to teach students about the government in which they live and why it is important. There are different definitions of civic education depending on which country a person calls home. In the United States, civic education hinges on the freedoms as well as limits the citizens claim in society.

What is civic education?

In the simplest terms, civic education in the United States is learning about self-government or democracy. The function of a democratic government is to rule by the people. That means our government officials are elected by popular vote of the people and our leaders should listen to the needs of the people. Learning about how the government of the country in which you live helps people stay better informed about the happenings of government. Being an informed citizen allows for a better voting process and keeps officials in office who represent the voice of the people of the country. It is important for students to understand the ideals and limitations of the government to learn what to and what not to expect from government.

What are the three components of a successful civic education program?

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While there are several different programs available to you, one of my favorite programs is the Center for Civic Education. Through their programs, teachers can find many ways to incorporate important civic education into lesson plans. The Center for Civic Education has a goal to “provide a high-quality civic and constitutional education for all.” 

 The three components of a successful civic education program, according to the Center for Civic Education are Civic Knowledge, Civic Skills both intellectual and participatory, and Civic Traits of Public and Private Character. 

Civic Knowledge

Civic education should begin by teaching students what politics, government, and life within those job fields is like. Describing to students what people in the different branches of government do during their work day and what they are responsible for is important. It is essential that students understand the three branches of our government and their purpose in the function of our country. There are lesson plans avaialble to you through the Center for Civic Education if you are looking for some supplemental curriculum. 

If you are looking for a great resource on the three branches of government, I would suggest checking out my Civics Breakout Challenges. You will find one for the Judicial Branch, the Executive Branch, and the Legislative Branch

Civic Skills

Civic Skills are the understanding of how the government of the United States functions, and to participate in the government. In order to make informed decisions as voters in the United States, we owe it to ourselves and our fellow citizens to understand the laws and rights we all share. To ensure that our students are understanding civic skills, it is important to teach them about the functions of all the branches of our government, but to also ask them to describe those functions. One of the best ways to make sure that our students are comprehending the lessons is to have them summarize. A great activity for upper elementary students to demonstrate comprehension of civic skills is to work together in a group to teach their classmates about civic education. Split the class into three groups and encourage each group to teach their classmates all about one of the three branches of government. Or split them into groups to teach about the Bill of Rights or the United States Constitution. You will be amazed by how much they remember and how passionate they will be about sharing their knowledge with their classmates.

Essential Civic Traits of Character

Maintaining a democratic government is the responsibility of all the citizens within that government. We should all vote and stay informed about the happenings of government. It is important to teach our students some essential civic traits of character. Students need to be taught to be independently functioning members of society taking responsibility for their own actions and not blaming others. They should also understand that everyone is important in society and equal before the law, as well as human dignity and kindness. Finally, an essential civic trait is to understand and participate in democratic society by voting and staying informed of what the government is doing.

You can talk until you’re blue in the face about the importance of good civic traits as citizens, but it is more fun to practice those traits. Encourage cooperation through some fun civics-themed escape rooms

Is civics education important in upper elementary?

The answer to this question is an obvious yes. It is important for students to understand that they will grow up to be the next generation of voters in the United States who will be able to shape the country into what they think is a good institution. Unfortunately, our students don’t always realize or care about this eventuality. By combining your civics education curriculum, the lesson plans and programs available to you through the Center for Civic Education, and some great civic education activities like breakouts and escape rooms, your students will learn a lot. They may not understand how important it is, but when they are old enough to participate in the functioning of the government of the United States, they will remember and appreciate these lessons! 

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Amy

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