October 2021
Civics In The Middle Newsletter
A newsletter for Illinois teachers to support the implementation of the Illinois middle and high school civics course requirements and K-12 social science standards.
Resources for Media Literacy Week (October 25-30)

Recently, our civic learning partners at the Stanford History Education Group were featured on National Public Radio for their work with Neuqua Valley High School, an Illinois Democracy School, to embed media literacy across the freshman curriculum. Civic engagement in the 21st century requires responsible consumption, engagement, and production of information, which has been recognized by the state of Illinois in Public Act 102-0055, which provides that every public high school include in its curriculum a unit of instruction on media literacy beginning in the 2022-23 school year. 
“Media literacy” means the ability to access, analyze, evaluate, create, and communicate using a variety of forms, including, but not limited to: print, visual, audio, interactive, and digital texts. 
Your classroom can learn more about media literacy by joining events being held during the last week of October to celebrate Media Literacy Week (MLW). The National Association for Media Literacy Education is hosting a series of opportunities to engage classrooms to “Access, Analyze, Evaluate, Create, and Act”this year’s MLW theme.
Classrooms can access media literacy resources all year long with the Illinois Civics Hub Media Literacy Toolkit. Some sample resources include: 

Games to engage students
  • Newsfeed Defenders from iCivics is a challenging game designed to sharpen students' news literacy skills
  • Clemson’s Spot the Troll is an educational tool to help the public learn to spot the markers of inauthenticity in social media accounts.
  • Informable is an app from the News Literacy Project where players develop the skills to become news-literate by practicing four distinct skills in a game format: distinguishing news articles from opinion pieces, advertisements from other types of information, false evidence from factual evidence, and fact-based statements from opinion-based statements
  • Factitious is a game that tests users' ability to detect fake news from real.
  • 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 info@altereainc.com.

Resources to learn how to engage with information
  • PBS NewsHour EXTRA’s new website, Journalism in Action, teaches students about the history of journalism in a fun way with primary sources and interactive activities.
  • The Pulitzer Center provides programming to engage students, foster curiosity, and encourage critical thinking with lesson plans, in-person and Skype journalist visits, workshops, and professional development.
  • The Stanford History Education Group’s portal for Civic Online Reasoning provides free lessons and assessments that teach students to evaluate online information affecting them, their communities, and the world.
  • Time for Kids' Explains podcast has a recurring segment called “Fact or Fishy?” that encourages kids to think about what’s credible in the news.

Resources to learn use media literacy to take informed action through service learning
  • Civic Education Research Group shares videos of students engaging in investigation and research as well as media to engage their voice and take actions to benefit their communities.
  • Common Sense Education: Educators can find free lessons for teaching students (K-12) Digital Citizenship and building young peoples' capacities as thoughtful media creators. The site also shares its picks of the best tech-creation tools out there.
  • The Digital Civics Toolkit is a collection of resources for educators to support youth to explore, recognize, and take seriously the civic potential of digital life.

The Illinois Civics Hub also has FREE online professional development this fall to support media literacy. We hope you will join us for these events.
Illinois Civics Hub Online Microcredentials HIghlighted in Recent Report by CIRCLE at Tufts
The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) at Tufts University has engaged in deep, years-long partnerships with the Illinois Civics Hub at the DuPage Regional Office of Education and with the Lou Frey Institute at the University of Central Florida to investigate and evaluate models of professional development that build teachers' knowledge, capacity, and willingness to adopt new civics pedagogies in the classroom.

Most recently CIRCLE evaluated Guardians of Democracy, an initiative to offer intensive online learning in K-12 civics instruction that would result in microcredentials certifying that teachers achieved mastery of various pedagogical approaches. CIRCLE recently shared the final report of that evaluation, which has implications for the broader question of how best to prepare teachers to educate students for democracy. This work was generously supported by the McCormick Foundation.
Major findings included in the CIRCLE report were::
  1. Guardian courses helped teachers gain both knowledge about pedagogy and self-awareness about how they teach and why. On average, teachers in the beginner courses gained an average of 10 percentage points in their civics pedagogy knowledge between the pre-test and post-test for the course.
  2. The virtual courses evolved into more than “training,” it became a safe and supportive professional learning community that allowed teachers to share and learn from one another. Facilitators also pushed teachers to make active contributions to each other’s learning. The social bonds and peer-teaching that resulted from this environment allowed teachers to be authentic and often vulnerable about challenges and even perceived failures, which was essential to their development.
  3. The courses helped teachers become more willing to use these pedagogical approaches in their classroom and more confident in their ability to do so effectively. 
  4. By emphasizing teacher accountability and an active learning pedagogy, Guardian courses broke the mold of typical professional development and allowed teachers to form a simulated or context-specific idea of how that practice will unfold in reality.
  5. The carefully designed courses, with concrete guidance and examples on how they can use each pedagogy, helped teachers experience a paradigm shift in their thinking about what the pedagogies can do for student learning.

You can experience the Guardians courses for yourself this fall. Earn your civic microcredentials. Become a Guardian of Democracy educator.

Registration is now open for the Guardians of Democracy fall cohorts. Hone your practice in facilitating:
  • Current and Controversial Issues Discussions
  • Simulations of Democratic Processes
  • 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 FREE.

Each course is the first in a three-course series. 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, be aware that Silver and Gold cohorts will run this fall and winter. Visit the Illinois Civics Hub Professional Development calendar for more information.
Hispanic Heritage Month
The Illinois Civic hub has curated resources to help classrooms celebrate Latinx culture and histories from September 15–October 15 and beyond with PreK-12 lessons, stories, and activities.
The Inclusive Democratic Classroom with Facing History and Ourselves

The Illinois Democracy Schools Network (DSN) is delighted to host Laura Tavares,  Program Director for Organizational Learning and Thought Leadership at Facing History and Ourselves to explore design and teaching strategies that foster the practice of Constitutional Democracy and student agency across the disciplines. Walk away with strategies aligned to the Pedagogy Companion of the Educating for American Democracy Roadmap that uses both content knowledge and classroom leadership to model the constitutional principle of “We the People” through democratic practices that promote civic responsibility, civil rights, and civic friendship in the classroom.

This is part of a series of webinars the DSN is hosting this year to promote Civic Learning Across Disciplines. A description for each webinar and information to register for the free professional development is available on the Illinois Civics Hub Professional Development calendar.

SCOTUS Preview with Dr. Steven D. Schwinn

Join Dr. Steven D. Schwinn, Professor of Law from the UIC Law School, for a preview of the upcoming SCOTUS term. Walk away with insights to enhance your understanding of the courts. This webinar is aligned to Theme 5 of the Educating for American Democracy Roadmap, “Institutional and Social Transformation.”

This is part of a series of webinars the ICH is hosting this year to support civics classrooms. A description for each webinar and information to register for the free professional development is available on the Illinois Civics Hub Professional Development calendar.
Avoiding the Rabbit Hole: Teaching Concepts in Conspiratorial Thinking with the News Literacy Project

Conspiracy theories are becoming part of mainstream discourse and public awareness. From political to pandemic-related beliefs to older ideas such as the Earth is flat, we are finding that more and more of our friends, family, and loved ones believe at least one conspiracy theory. How do we teach students to avoid conspiracy theories without actually teaching them the specifics of such false beliefs?

John Silva, Senior Director for Professional Learning at the News Literacy Project, joins the Illinois Civics Hub for a timely session to explore the psychological and cognitive factors behind conspiratorial thinking, including the role of fears and anxiety, cognitive dissonance and biases, motivated reasoning, and institutional cynicism. We will discuss the ways in which conspiracy theories exploit our emotions as well as fill our emotional needs. As part of this session, we will outline essential learning objectives and concepts and provide instructional resources for integrating these concepts into the curriculum, including our free, interactive lesson which is part of the Checkology® virtual classroom.

This is part of a series of webinars the ICH is hosting this year to support media literacy. A description for each webinar and information to register for the free professional development is available on the Illinois Civics Hub Professional Development calendar.
View the Inaugural CivXNow Policy Summit

Growing bipartisan consensus recognizes that civic education, equitably delivered, is a critical component of rebuilding the civic strength of our country. To improve and strengthen civic education, state policies must be aligned to this goal.

On September 21-22, CivXNow, a coalition of over 170 partner organizations from diverse viewpoints focused on improving K-12 in and out-of-school civic education, hosted a two-day virtual summit to encourage and support policy action.

The program featured diverse perspectives on civic education policymaking, such as:
  • A bipartisan panel of state legislators from Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, and Massachusetts
  • Keynote discussions with Former Secretary of Defense Bob Gates and Filmmaker Ken Burns
  • Remarks by Former Governor Thomas H. Kean (R-NJ), as well as the co-sponsor of the bipartisan Civics Secures Democracy Act, Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT).

To view the sessions and associated resources to support civic education, visit https://civxnow.org/summit-resources
Teacher Fellowships and Opportunites

Street Law is seeking 20 middle and high school teachers from across the country to pilot our new deliberation project, “Building Global Citizenship through Deliberation."

Teachers who participate in the pilot cohort will receive a number of benefits including:
  • Two hours of professional development on how to facilitate the deliberation/Structured Academic Controversy discussion protocol.
  • Early access to six new Street Law deliberation topic packs that focus on policy issues of global importance.
  • Instructional support throughout the school year to bring deliberative discussions using these new resources into your classroom.
  • $200 upon successful completion of professional development and feedback on two deliberative discussions
Learn more about the program here. Applications are due Friday, October 1, 2021.

The Roadmap to Educating for American Democracy is a call to action to invest in strengthening history and civic learning and to ensure that civic learning opportunities are delivered equitably throughout the country. One of the first steps in implementing the Roadmap is the development of an EAD-aligned early-U.S. History middle school curriculum—and we need the help of dedicated, expert educators like you! 

iCivics is accepting applications through October 15 to join a cohort of 8–10 exceptional, inquiry-driven teachers from across the nation who will collaboratively build the curriculum. iCivics EAD Teacher Fellowship Benefits & Responsibilities
  • A $4,000 stipend plus additional paid opportunities to engage as an iCivics EAD Teacher Mentor
  • Collaborate and network with other educators and stakeholders
  • Create one unit (about 20 lessons) that will become part of a general year-long curriculum
  •  A six-month commitment of approximately 20 hours per month from January 8–June 18, 2022.

Review the application requirements and learn more details about the fellowship.

Student Contests

The United States Courts of Appeals along with the United States District Courts in the Seventh and Eighth Circuits are hosting the second annual Bill of Rights contest.
School-aged children in Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin are encouraged to submit art and essays on; The Importance of the Bill of Rights. Be as creative as you like! 
 Art (Videos, Visual Art, Poems, Songs)
  • Elementary (grades 3-5)
  • Middle School (grades 6-8)
  • High School (grades 9-12)
  • Elementary (grades 3-5)
  • Middle School (grades 6-8)
  • High School (grades 9-12)
A grand prize winner from each of the three groups (3-5, 6-8, and 9-12 grade) will be awarded a $500 cash prize, be able to take part in a virtual event on Wednesday, December 1 with Federal Judges and other legal experts on the enduring rights afforded to Americans by the Bill of Rights, and have their name and submission shared on the websites of the participating United States District Courts. Semi-finalists from each District Court will receive an electronic gift card valued at $50.
Submissions will be accepted from Friday, September 17, through 5 pm on Sunday, October 31. Submissions should be emailed along with a completed entry form. Click HERE to download the rules and entry form. Email Submissions and Forms to: Education@ilnd.uscourts.gov

2021 Congressional App Challenge

Students are invited to participate in the Congressional App Challenge, the official computer science competition of the House of Representatives. Since its inception in 2013, the Congressional App Challenge has grown to become a prestigious prize in computer science. More than 30,000 students have participated in the Congressional App Challenge across 308 Congressional Districts in 49 states and five U.S. territories.
The Congressional App Challenge urges computer science students of all levels to enter the competition, as it encourages critical thinking and creativity. To learn more, you can visit their website here,

The Imperial President? 
Resources to Understand Executive Power
Executive power has loomed large in the news. Domestic issues such as vaccine mandates, and foreign policy issues like the recent troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, have provided civics classrooms an opportunity to engage students in current and societal issue discussions around power, freedom, security, and safety. 
We asked some of our Illinois Civics Instructional Coaches to share resources they use to help students understand the power of the executive branch. Here are their suggestions.
  • Candace Fikis from Oswego shares, “Crash Course Government has great videos to help preview or review powers of the executive branch. Crash course videos can also nicely supplement a lesson or reading. I find them helpful to post for students who might miss some classes or need more help understanding a concept.” Candace points specifically to Presidential Power: Crash Course VIdeo #11 and Presidential Power Part 2: Crash Course Video #12
  • Logan Ridenour from Dupo has two suggestions. “C-SPAN Classroom has pre-made lesson plans that help ground concepts with discussions from policymakers and political theorists. [Also,] iCivics has a great, easy-to-follow infographic that will allow students to easily understand the many roles/hats that the President wears daily."
  • Tracy Freeman from Normal exclaims, “I really like the Annenberg video, Mandate: the President and the People. The video is in sections so that you can give them a background in chunks. Near the end, there is a quote that, ‘The best presidents are the most dangerous.’ I ask students to gather evidence from this video to support that. The nice thing here is it doesn’t get too controversial as perhaps more contemporary acts."

For deeper inquiry into the questions of presidential power, view the Illinois Civics Hub recorded webinar with the National Archives Foundation to explore the question, “How has the role of the executive branch changed across our history?” The webinar explores how to use online resources to teach about the development of U.S. foreign policy from the Age of Imperialism to the Cold War and features two eBooks and a classroom lesson highlighting 20th Century changes in America’s relationship to the world. 

This monthly newsletter from the Illinois Civics Hub, hosted 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.