By Mrs. Joy Maimon, Civics & Government, and Language Arts
This year all of our students are combined into one class for Civics and Government. The objective is to provide knowledge and understanding so that our students become active participants in our democracy.
We began our study this year, learning about the foundations of American democracy and the origins of our government. We recently completed a unit on the Constitution and now will begin in-depth sections on the three branches of government. After learning about the federal government, we will be moving to the local government, the role of political parties, and how campaigns and elections function.
In choosing a curriculum, I researched many options, including various online content and traditional textbooks. Ultimately, I decided on the iCivics program because it is interactive, engaging, and accessible.
iCivics was founded by former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor to provide meaningful civics education. Millions of students across the country benefit significantly from this program. The intentional design incorporated into each lesson makes our class learning exciting and fun.
Here are a few of our innovative educational activities.
To demonstrate the importance of Rule of Law in a democracy, our students acted out skits that explored what would happen without order and security, legitimacy, checks and balances, equal application of the law, and procedural fairness.
To experience the purpose behind the Separation of Powers, we drafted a school policy. In this case, our "law" was a school menu, and each group took the role of lead chefs (executive branch), menu writers (legislative branch) and nutrition inspectors (judicial branch). Not only were the students passionate about their proposed menus, but they also walked away with the first-hand experience of how each branch of our government works together in the lawmaking process.
This week, we will vote on another hypothetical "law"- a cell-phone policy. Our vote will simulate the roles of the House and Senate to demonstrate how representation affects the legislation process. In two rounds of voting, students will see how the results will differ if only the "teachers/senators" or "students/ representatives" vote. The process will clearly illustrate how our bicameral (two-chamber) Congress functions.
Justice O'Connor's goal is to transform civic education for every student in America with innovative, truly engaging games and resources. Of all her accomplishments, Justice O'Connor considers iCivics to be her most important work and most significant legacy. Click this link to see a message from Justice O'Connor about iCivics.
In her own words:
"The practice of democracy is not passed down through the gene pool. It must be taught and learned anew by each generation of citizens."