May 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.
Honoring AAPI Heritage

May is Asian American/Pacific Islander Heritage Month (AAPI). The Illinois Civics Hub is partnering with the Illinois Democracy School Network to host a free webinar for students and teachers: Reflecting on AAPI History to Inform Action. Participants will have an opportunity to reflect on AAPI History, discuss the recent rise in hate crimes against the Asian American community, and explore opportunities for students to take informed action.  

Dr. Karen Korematsu, founder and executive director of the Fred Korematsu Institute, will provide a historical grounding for this conversation and will then lead a panel of AAPI stakeholders to explore current events and opportunities for informed action to support the AAPI community and beyond.
Invited guests include:

Registration is open and Illinois educators may earn professional development credit through the DuPage Regional Office of Education.

To extend learning about AAPI history throughout the school year, please consider the following:
Professional Development Opportunities
Sharpen Your Saw this Summer with Online PD

This summer, we hope you'll enjoy three “R’s” relaxation, reflection, and renewal. The Illinois Civics Hub (ICH) is offering FREE professional development throughout the summer with some of the biggest civic learning partners in the nation, including:

All summer offerings will be aligned to the proven practices of civic education in the 6-8 and 9-12 civic course requirements in Illinois, the Illinois Social Science Standards, and the new Educating for American Democracy Roadmap, a cross-ideological initiative to support K-12 civics and teaching.

Participants can join live or view a recording post-webinar. Professional development credit will be issued to Illinois educators through the DuPage Regional Office of Education. Offerings this June include:

For a complete listing of professional development, visit the professional development calendar at the Illinois Civics Hub.

Earn Your Microcredentials: Become a Guardian of Democracy Educator

The Illinois Civics Hub at the DuPage Regional Office of Education is providing an opportunity for educators to earn micro-credentials in the proven practices of civic education embedded in the middle and high school course requirements and the Illinois Social Science standards. Courses include:
  • Current and Controversial Issue Discussion Strategies
  • Simulations of Democratic Processes
  • Informed Action through Service Learning

Each five-week course is hosted on Free for Teachers Canvas to provide individualized professional learning with digital badges. Participants will complete one module per week. 
The summer cohorts will begin on July 12, 2021. Interested educators may register through the Illinois Civics Hub calendar. Out-of-state educators can find out more information on the Guardians of Democracy homepage. Those who successfully complete one of the 5-week online courses earn 15 PD hours and a Bronze Certified Guardian of Democracy Educator badge via Badgr.

For more information about each course, including syllabi, visit the Guardian of Democracy homepage.

Educator Feedback on Revisions to IL Social Science Standards

The Illinois State Board of Education recently released proposed revisions to the Illinois Social Science standards in grade K-12. The changes were created by a committee of educators representing the diversity of the Land of Lincoln under the leadership of the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE).

While Illinois Civics Hub (ICH) did not participate in these standards revisions, the ICH is hosting feedback sessions for educators to discuss the revisions and take informed action to create the best document possible before public comment ends on May 24, 2021. Participants will complete a guided review of the proposed revisions pre-webinar and then work in affinity groups to discuss, reflect, and provide comments to ISBE.

For more information on how to participate, read this recent blog post from the Illinois Civics Hub.

Educating for American Democracy Roadmap

The Illinois Civics Hub recently hosted a webinar about the recently published Educating for American Democracy (EAD) Roadmap, a cross-ideological framework for powerful civics and history instruction in K-12 schools.

The EAD Roadmap provides support to districts to implement the Illinois K-12 Social Science standards and civics course requirements with resources, a pedagogy guide, and vertically-aligned themes for inquiry that address today’s curricular design challenges.

Visit the EAD website for more information and free professional development opportunities throughout the year.
Classroom Resources
CIRCLE Youth Expertise Series: The 26th Amendment
The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) has published data showing a significant increase in youth voting in the 2020 election. CIRCLE explains in the report, “Numerous interconnected factors shape youth turnout: competitiveness, campaign outreach, the composition of the youth population, and state voting laws that can either facilitate voting or pose barriers for youth. It is crucial to examine these and other factors that may be at play in order to expand the electorate.”  

CIRCLE is providing a service learning opportunity through short proposals from young people (ages 14 to 24) interested in creating a blog post, video, or presentation for the CIRCLE website. CIRCLE is inviting proposals from diverse young people from a wide range of backgrounds, experiences, and locations in the U.S. about how schools, communities, and organizations can more substantially and more equitably support youth participation in elections. CIRCLE is particularly interested in amplifying the experiences and vision of young people who are under 20 years of age, young people of color, and those from communities where they perceive little support and access to voting and elections. The short proposals are due by June 15, 2021. Young people whose proposals are selected will receive a small stipend when they complete the final product. Visit the CIRCLE website for more information.

New CEE-Change Fellowship Opportunities

The North American Associate for Environmental Education’s (NAAEE) CEE-Change Fellowship is a next-generation fellowship offered through ee360. Over an eighteen-month period, fellows design and implement a joint Civic Engagement and Environmental Education Community Action Project with access to mini-grants. A partnership between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Cedar Tree Foundation, the CEE-Change Fellowship creates lasting, impactful change across communities. 

There will be an informational webinar on May 10, 2021 on ZOOM from 4-5 PM ET to learn all about the benefits of participating in this fellowship as well as gain some project inspiration. Ask questions and share ideas! Register for the webinar today! 

Applications for the CEE-Change Fellowship are due May 17! Learn more about this opportunity and apply here.

Citizen U Primary Source Nexus and the Question Formulation Technique

The Citizen U Primary Source Nexus Page has a plethora of tools to help students analyze primary sources and use evidence in social science inquiry. Two resources, in particular, demonstrate the use of the Right Question Institute’s Question Formulation Technique to help students create questions to guide inquiry per the Illinois Social Science standards.

For more resources to engage students with primary sources, visit the Illinois Civics Curriculum Design Toolkit.

Civics 101 Tackles the SCOTUS

The Civics 101 Podcast from Hew Hampshire Public Radio has turned its attention to the Supreme Court of the United States, focusing a series of episodes on SCOTUS precedents that impact our constitutional right to privacy. Cases involving Free Speech in Schools were also highlighted in their recent Extra Credit newsletter.

For a complete listing of episodes, including recent episodes on the right to privacy, visit the Civics 101 podcast episode menu.

Watch a Civics Conversation with Justices Sotomayor and Gorsuch

The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and the National Security Institute (NSI) at George Mason University's Antonin Scalia Law School recently hosted a conversation with Justice Sonia Sotomayor and Justice Neil Gorsuch on the importance of civic education as a national security imperative. In a global environment where liberal democracies are facing a crisis of confidence and where authoritarian regimes work to threaten the foundational premise of the rule of law, it is essential that the American public understands why and how the justice system is fundamental to securing our democracy. You can watch the conversation here.

Free Digital Media Literacy Courses

Now more than ever, educators need support around digital media literacy skills, in both remote and traditional classroom environments. The KQED Media Academy offers free, instructor-led, online professional development courses that prepare educators to effectively and meaningfully analyze, evaluate, and make media with students to support curriculum goals. This is open to all educators across the country, including PreK-12 classroom teachers, librarians, and TOSAs.

Untold Stories: Changemakers of the Civil Rights Era

iCivics presents a series of short, animated videos that examine the actions and accomplishments of civil rights activists of the 1950s and 1960s, such as Barbara Johns, Constance Baker Motley, and J.D. and Ethel Shelley. These assignable videos end with questions for generating classroom discussion and come with a downloadable teacher’s guide. Learn more.

The Bill of Rights in Action from the Constitutional Rights Foundation

The latest edition of the Bill of Rights in Action is now available from the Constitutional Rights Foundation. Each article includes writing and discussion questions, a small group activity, and source material.

The current edition focuses on:
  • U.S. History: American Indian Sovereignty
  • U.S. Government/Current Issues: Police Reform After the Death of George Floyd
  • World History/Current Issues: The Last Nuclear Treaty
Bringing Closure to the School Year

The 2020-21 school year has been both challenging and an opportunity to clarify what is most important in preparing students for civic life. The lessons of this year transcend these present circumstances and can inform instruction moving forward. We asked some of our Illinois Civics Instructional Coaches how they plan to engage student voices to bring closure to the school year. Here are their ideas.

Jason M. Artman: “My school’s response to COVID was a change in schedule from an 8-period day to an 8-block. I used it as an opportunity for a simulated Town Hall Meeting in civics class a few weeks into the year, where students, teachers, and administrators shared feelings and impressions about how our COVID protocols and changes were working, including student impressions of the new schedule as a potential permanent schedule. The students researched the pros and cons of 8-block versus traditional scheduling, considered their own experiences, and had a long conversation with administrators and teachers who made decisions regarding the changes. It was very successful. An end-of-year Town Hall Meeting to address the highlights and lowlights of this year could be very beneficial for those same groups as they all look forward to what the next school year can and should look like.” Region: Bureau, Henry, LaSalle, Marshall, Mason, Peoria, Putnam, Stark, Tazewell & Woodford Counties

Alia Bluemlein: “Something I do at the end of each year is to ask students to reflect on my class, offering suggestions and celebrations. This helps inform the ways I structure my courses the following year. I also think that this will be especially helpful in continuing elements of class from this year into what will *hopefully* be a more “typical” or “normal” year for 2021-2022.” Region: Boone, Northern Cook, Lake, McHenry, & Winnebago Counties

Candace Fikis: Working with the juniors in Student Council this year, we have a meeting scheduled with our principal and activities director to reflect on this school year and make plans for next year. Our focus will be on building school spirit and pride since it has diminished during our time away from school. They are also working on ways for freshmen and sophomores (who did not get to spend much time at school this year) to get involved in clubs and sports so they can feel part of our school. They have ideas for how to end this year and also opening next school year, and planning all-school activities (even if they have to be modified). Region: Southern Cook, Grundy, Iroquois, Kankakee, Kendall & Will Counties

Tracy Freeman: “I do an end-of-class evaluation every year. This year I am asking for feedback on what from our remote world we should keep; what should be a “never do again” rule… We also as part of our class are taking recommendations on what to do with our 15-minute homeroom time; how to help with credit recovery (during lunch hours etc.). Finally, school mitigations have been a huge focus the past 8 weeks; they will be surveyed on what to do in the fall. This will be organized and sent to building and district administration.” Region: Champaign, DeWitt, Ford, Livingston, Logan, Macon, McLean, Piatt & Vermillion Counties

Bonnie Laughlin-Schultz: “With my preservice teachers, I am going to use a Compass Point Reflection to help them position themselves within our teacher licensure program. They will move on from my class to one that includes a 75-hour practicum followed by student teaching, so I want them to both reflect on all they have learned so far as well as pose questions/challenges/aspirations for themselves moving forward. This will give me great feedback as I rethink the course goals and content, and I hope that it sets them up for future growth and learning, on their own and in coursework. I am also planning a Zoom with a handful of current and former students to think about the two-course social studies teaching sequence, and will have my department chair sit in to help gather and evaluate their feedback..” Region: Clark, Clay, Coles, Crawford, Cumberland, Douglas, Edgar, Edwards, Gallatin, Hamilton, Hardin, Jasper, Lawrence, Massac, Moultrie, Pope, Richland, Saline, Shelby, Wabash, Wayne & White Counties

Logan Ridenour: We are going to have a town hall with the superintendent and a board member in the coming weeks. Students are going to survey students about the year and school building and provide information to the board members. Also, we will have a few days at the end of the year to allow students to evaluate the course and my teaching. I enjoy doing this as it allows students to help shape my content and instruction for future years. Region:  Alexander, Clinton, Franklin, Jackson, Jefferson, Johnson, Marion, Monroe, Perry, Pulaski, Randolph, St. Clair, Union, Washington & Williamson 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 civics 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.