Great cases for civic engagement programs in schools

June 3, 2015


But how is the idea of civic engagement being translated into the day-to-day curriculum of schools around the country? The answer is, differently, in different places. In Hudson, Massachusetts, for example, second graders learned about seeing-eye dogs, therapy dogs and bomb-sniffing dogs. Then they organized a “Barkery” and made dog biscuits to raise funds for animal surgery at a local shelter. While making and selling the biscuits, the children practiced reading, measuring, math, communication and cooperation skills. In Washington, D.C., high school students, who were studying issues involved with labor and justice, applied their lessons in the community. When they discovered that a fast-food restaurant was paying its tomato pickers less than fair wages, the students boycotted the restaurant and organized a protest. In Modesto, California, students in Fairview Elementary School, most of whom are Hispanic, studied, discussed, debated and then voted on whether or not a five-year policy of requiring students to wear uniforms should be continued. The results were 458 students in favor of discontinuing the policy and 162 in favor of continuing it. The parent vote was 167 in favor of keeping the uniform policy and 139 against it. The staff vote was about evenly split. The School Safety Committee, which is made up of students, parents and staff representatives, met in late June to resolve the question and decided to discontinue the uniform policy since there was not sufficient sentiment in favor of it. However, the committee recognized that parents and staff were concerned about dress standards, so the group will develop a set of “expectations” for the kind of clothes students should wear. In the fall, the school is planning a “Rock the Vote” concert to encourage Latino parents to register to vote, so that they will practice and model this civic responsibility for their children.

Joyce Baldwin, "Civic Education" The Carnegie Reporter, Vol. 2, No. 3,

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