August 2021
Civics In The Middle Newsletter
A newsletter for Illinois teachers to support the implementation of the state’s middle and high school civics course requirements and K-12 social science standards.
Sorting Facts From Fiction- What Districts Can Do to Combat Misinformation in the Current Culture Wars

Many of the current media narratives around social-emotional and civic learning in school provide both opportunities and challenges for school leadership as we enter into the new school year on the eve of a midterm election season. What can districts do to combat misinformation and create a school climate to help students, staff and the community navigate the brewing “culture wars?”

Dr. Darlene Ruscitti and the Illinois Civics Hub at the DuPage Regional Office of Education recently hosted a webinar to explore proactive measures administrators can take to create a supportive school climate for all stakeholders. Participants explored how to sort facts from fiction from leading experts in school climate, civics, news literacy, and social-emotional learning.

A recording of the webinar is available on the Illinois Civics Hub Webinar Archive. The Illinois Civics Hub at the DuPage Regional Office of Education will continue to explore these topics in the upcoming school year with both virtual and in-person professional development.
Revisions and Additions to the Illinois Social Science Standards
Last month, the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules, a bipartisan legislative oversight committee created by the Illinois General Assembly, approved revisions to the K-12 Illinois Social Science standards. The changes were created by a committee of educators representing the diversity of the Land of Lincoln under the leadership of Elizabeth Hiler, Principal Consultant of Social Science, and Erica Thieman, Director of K-12 Curriculum and Instruction at the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE).

The current social science standards continue to shape the school curriculum for the 2021-22 school year. The revised standards impact the 2022-23 school year. The Illinois Civics Hub has created a google document for each grade band, placing the current standards, proposed revisions, and final revisions and additions side by side to help planning for curriculum shifts. Please note that the coding system for the standards has changed throughout the grade levels. Any changes in language from the proposed revisions to final adoption are bolded and highlighted in yellow.

For more details about the standards revision process and a link to a recording by educators who participated in the process, review this blog post for more information.
Professional Development Opportunities
#CivicsInTheMiddle Back to School PD

It is not too late to register for the remaining session hosted by the Illinois Civics Hub (ICH) at the DuPage Regional Office of Education to support the implementation of the 6-12 civics mandates and K-12 Social Science standards.

There are two strands of professional development. On Tuesday, powerful pedagogy is the focus with strategies to help you prepare to return to the classroom this fall. 

Wednesday webinars put the spotlight on some of the leading civic learning providers in the nation as they address a thematic question from the Educating for American Democracy Roadmap with disciplinary content resources to enhance your practice. August topics include:

Each webinar is free and Illinois educators can elect to earn PD credits for attending the webinar and completing a brief post-webinar 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 on the Illinois Civics Hub Professional Development calendar.

If you missed one of our webinars, you can create your own #PoolsidePD and view a recording by accessing our Webinar Archive.

Earn Your Microcredentials: Become a Guardian of Democracy Educator

The Illinois Civics Hub has partnered with the Lou Frey Institute at the University of Central Florida to provide educators the opportunity to earn their microcredentials in the proven practices of civic education embedded in the middle and high school civics course requirements in Illinois. Courses include:
  • Current and Controversial Issue DiscussionsLearn from academic experts Dr. Diana Hess & Dr. Paula McAvoy as you explore the purpose, role, and function of discussion strategies as pedagogical tools to equip young people to be engaged citizens. This course will enhance the practice of educators with strategies and resources to create a classroom climate in which there are equitable opportunities for ALL students to engage in dialogue about essential questions across the curriculum.
  • Simulations of Democratic ProcessesLearn from academic experts Dr. Walter Parker & Dr. Jane Lo as you explore how democratic processes and procedures occur as part of the regular functioning of government, in each of the three branches of government, and at each level of government. This course will guide you through the purpose, planning, and implementation of three simulations: town hall meetings, legislative hearings, and moot courts.
  • Informed Action through Service LearningLearn from academic experts Dr. Joseph Kahne and Jessica Marshall as you explore the purpose, role, and function of informed action through service learning as a pedagogical tool to equip young people with the knowledge, skills, and dispositions to be active members of their community. In this course, you will interact with strategies and tools that you can use in your classroom to support student-centered informed action through service learning.

Registration information is available on the Illinois Civics Hub Professional Development calendar. Those who successfully complete the 5-week online course will earn a Bronze Certified Guardian of Democracy Educator badge via Badgr and the University of Central Florida Center for Distributive Learning. Participants can earn 15 PD hours through the DuPage Regional Office of Education for a nominal fee.

There are three strands of courses for each proven practice of civics education. Graduate credit is available through the University of St. Francis for completing all three courses. For more information, please visit the Guardians of Democracy homepage.

If you have already earned your Bronze Certified Educator Badge, Silver and Gold cohorts will run this fall and winter. Visit the Illinois Civics Hub Professional Development calendar for more information.

Got Civics?
Resources Aligned to the Illinois Civics Course Requirements
Further guidance on civics course content is provided by both:
The Illinois School Code that requires instruction and assessment on the Illinois Constitution, the U.S. Constitution, the Flag Code, Voting and Elections and the Declaration of Independence.

Curating resources to meet the required minimum semester of civics content at grades 6-8 and 9-12 can be daunting for both new and “veteran” civics educators. We asked some of our Illinois Civics Instructional Coaches to share resources that meet the course requirements for powerful civics in the Land of Lincoln. Here are their recommendations.

Tracy Freeman (ROE 9,17, 39, and 54): In order to have a current and controversial issues discussion, you have to attach to the theme mentioned on the right. To do this well, you must create a safe space. I start on Day One with any one of the activities found here:  Creating a Safe and Reflective Classroom. Find what works with the “personality” of your class. My favorite is the Learning for Justice FRAME (formerly teaching Tolerance). Our discussion around issues then turns into writing a classroom set of norms.

Corie Yow (3, 40, 41, and 51): One way to actively explore institutional changes can be through a legislative hearing simulation. The goal of a legislative hearing simulation is for students to experience the lawmaking process, engage in civil discourse, and put civic dispositions into practice. The Citizen Advocacy Center provides a step-by-step guide for a mock senate hearing you can utilize with your curriculum and current topic of study.

Bonnie Laughlin-Schultz (Pre-Service Community):: IPARDE resources from Generation On are very useful to me as I plan service learning and work with students to springboard to informed action ideas. The Four Types of Service helps us understand the many ways that students can engage in service learning or informed action, while their brainstorming and planning worksheets, in particular, can help both teachers and students generate authentic informed action and attend to the stages of the process: investigation, preparation, action, and reflection. Their Youth Interest Inventory helps teachers tailor informed action to their particular students and to give students more ownership of projects.

Candace Fikis (ROE 7, 32, 44, and 56): iCivics resources are amazing, especially teaching civics for the first time. There are lesson plans covering many civics topics, especially related to Constitutional concepts. These plans have readings for different grade school and high school levels and for ELL students, with worksheets and interactive games, if looking for some simulations of democratic processes. When setting up any simulation it is important to ground it with content and to reflect on the learning through the simulation. iCivics provides a curriculum to partner with the games that provide both content and debrief activities.

For even more resources to implement the middle and high school civics course requirements with fidelity, visit the Educator Resources for the Educating for American Democracy Roadmap as well as the Illinois Civics Hub Curriculum Design Toolkits for:
Meet the Newest Members of the Illinois Civics Hub Team
The Illinois Civics Hub is delighted to welcome two new members to our team of Regional Civics Instructional Coaches.

Civics Instructional Coaches receive in-depth training both in-person and via webinars. Civics Instructional Coaches, in turn, will facilitate professional development for middle and high school civics/social studies teachers in their respective regions. Civics Coaches are responsible for ongoing engagement with Regional Offices of Education, teachers, schools, districts, and pre-service programs in their area via newsletters, social media, workshops, and conference presentations throughout the school year.

Julie Drone- ROE 1,12,20 and 21. Julie (pictured left) teaches 7th-grade social studies at Harrisburg Middle School. This is her fourth year in this position. Prior to teaching social studies, Julie taught Pre-K for a year and then moved into Kindergarten for 12 years at Gallatin County School in Junction, Illinois. Julie has three children and one daughter-in-law. Her sons live in Edwardsville, Illinois, and her daughter attends Montana State University in Bozeman. Julie is always up for traveling, visiting her kids, and being outside. She loves learning new things and hopes to carry that over into this new experience. Julie is excited for the new school year to begin as she looks forward to building some great relationships with the students.

Mary Jane Warden- ROE 4,5,34 and 44 Mary Jane (pictured right) Mary Jane Warden has been in education for 26 years, serving over the decades as a middle school social studies/Language Arts teacher, staff developer, and district-level technology director in Illinois. She found her inner geek when the Internet first hit the scene back in 1994 with a Museum in the Classroom grant integrating technology with the social studies curriculum. Her energies since then have been invested in supporting students and teachers in integrating technology tools into teaching and learning. Mary Jane has led initiatives in developing instructional “better” practices and building robust digital learning ecosystems including Google Workspace, data-informed instruction, inquiry-based learning, assistive technology, VR/AR in the Classroom, and 1:1 EdTech learning environments. She has presented at local and national conferences as an educator, technologist, and instructional coach. Mary Jane currently leads a team of 33 members that support innovation and instructional technology in Park Ridge-Niles District 64.

Help Wanted: Online Media Literacy Game

Alterea Inc. is looking for educators to give feedback on their most recent project, Agents of Influence, a spy-themed educational video game that teaches middle schoolers to recognize and combat misinformation in their own lives. Educators interested in finding out more information can complete this google form or send inquires to

This monthly newsletter from the Illinois Civics Hub at the DuPage Regional Office of Education provides educators with timely professional development opportunities and classroom resources. For weekly updates on emerging research on civics, “teachable moments,” and related materials, follow our blog.