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Democracy Schools Network

Monthly Update

May 2022


As the 20212022 school year comes to an end, please know how grateful we are for all the energy you contribute to the improvement of civic learning in your classrooms, schools, and communities. These effortsboth big and small—make a difference in the lives of your students as they begin to really understand the significance of living in a democracy. The opportunities you offer them, as well as your own modeling of citizenship, speak profoundly to young people who are figuring out their connection to the world around them. This is not easy work! We hope you will find time during the summer to reflect and recharge so you can come back next year and do it again! Best wishes for a summer of contentment!



DSN announcements, upcoming events, Professional Development opportunities, and information about activities in our Democracy Schools:

~Annual Convening. September 15, 2022. We've gathered an impressive list of speakers to help you explore "Civic Learning and Media Literacy Across Disciplines." Please register here by May 31; we don't have the luxury of waiting until school begins in August to put details in place. Thanks for understanding this. If you have questions, please email Sue. 

~Civic Learning Across Disciplines database

This is our final ask for examples from our schools that demonstrate civic learning across the curriculum. Whether it is a project that has already happened, is being planned, or is simply a hope for the future, we are interested in hearing about it. Just a few details would help build this network resource. Thank you.

~New timeline for DSN Grants (formerly known as RFP Stipends)

The Democracy Schools Network (DSN) offers a grant program on a yearly basis so active Democracy Schools have an opportunity to apply for funds to support work that enriches the civic learning experiences of students and improves the school’s organizational culture to provide a more democratic landscape. This has been a very successful program and has enabled many of our schools to innovate in ways that would not have been possible otherwise. 

In order to reflect more accurately the timeline that our teachers work with, we are shifting the submission periods. This will allow our members to consider projects they would like to have in place at the beginning of the school year, as well as projects that will not be considered until after school has resumed in the fall. 

·     First funding period: May 1June 15

·     Second funding period: September 15November 1

We hope that this shift will allow more of our DSN members to think about new possibilities for civic learning opportunities in their classrooms and schools. We look forward to hearing your ideas! You can access more details and the application here. (Note: There is a different form if you are planning a collaborative effort with one or more other schools.)

~Carolyn Pereira Civic Leadership Award

Interested in acknowledging someone's extraordinary efforts with enhancing civic learning in his or her school? Nominations are now open! This award recognizes a DSN member who has exhibited an exemplary commitment to strengthening schoolwide civic engagement and learning; someone who exhibits initiative, creativity, persistence and integrity in modeling and promoting the Illinois Democracy Schools model. 

We welcome your nomination here. Please submit by Friday, May 20, 2022. The recipient will be honored at the Democracy Schools Network Annual Convening on September 15, 2022, and awarded $1,000 in funding for a civic need in his or her school.  

~Seeking new members for DSN Advisory Council

We are looking for DSN members who are interested in serving in a leadership position (with a stipend) in our organization. The Advisory Council provides insight, energy, and outreach to promote the vision of the Illinois Democracy Schools. More details are available here. Please submit by May 20, 2022.

~Our annual survey provides us with important information about our members and their professional needs. Please take a few moments and provide some feedback on civic learning in your school during the past year and how we can better support you in 20222023. Thank you.

This summer, the Illinois Civics Hub is partnering with the Civic Education Research Group (CERG) and the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) to sponsor a cohort of Democracy Schools Network members to learn how to facilitate informed and equitable voting in their communities during the 2022 Midterm Elections and beyond.
Participants will attend a Virtual Summer Institute over four days, choosing to participate either from June 27-30 OR July 11-14. The virtual institutes will meet from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. over the four days. There will be one hour of independent work daily during the workshop.
Topics covered include:
  • Key approaches to civic education 
  • Educational resources and models for teaching about elections and voting in a nonpartisan way 
  • Research on why schools and educators have a critical role in building informed and equitable voting 
  • Opportunities to connect to educational goals and content standards
  • Dynamics that constrain informed and equitable voting 
  • School- and community-specific action planning for the 2022 election and beyond
  • Participate in an interactive four-day Institute for three hours each day
  • Complete asynchronous, independent work for one hour each day
  • Construct a plan for working with other educators in your school community during the 2022 election cycle
  • Participate in a peer review of other participants' local plans and share yours
  • Implement your local plan with other educators during the 2022 election cycle
  • Reflect on your successes and challenges after the election 
  • Present during a webinar this fall for the Illinois Democracy Schools Network. 
Participants will have the option to earn 15 PD hours from the DuPage County Regional Office of Education for FREE.
Two graduate credits from the University of California, Riverside Extension are available for an additional fee.
Participants will earn a $1,000 stipend for completing all requirements of this cohort. Spots are limited. Participation in the paid cohort will be based on the diverse regions and disciplinary contents in the DSN.
To apply for this opportunity, please complete this Google form.


Resources to assist our members in implementing best practices in civics:


Pushing the Boundaries of Computer Science: Meet teachers who help students use computing to explore their identities, express themselves creatively, and are introducing their students to “critical” computer science that is focused on examining how technology can work to either reinforce or challenge injustice.

How to help your students tell fact from fiction online: Examine common mistakes and learn how you can help.

What has Math got to do with my life? The book, Civic Mathematics: Fundamentals in the Context of Social Issues, explores race and gender, poverty and wealth, the environment, and teen issues with lessons based on themes such as estimating, probability, negative numbers, and multiplying decimals.

Social Justice Literature Circles: These lessons are designed for both middle and high school and explore these Essential Questions: 1. What makes us who we are? 2. How are our identities shaped by society?

Enhance your classroom practice with these five-week asynchronous, micro-credential courses hosted on Canvas. Explore strategies and resources to create a classroom climate in which there are equitable opportunities for ALL students to engage in the proven practices of civic education delineated in the middle and high school course requirements: current and controversial issue discussions, simulations of democratic processes, and informed action through service learning. Learn from academic experts like Dr. Diana Hess, Dr. Paula McAvoy, Dr. Joe Kahne, Dr. Jane Lo, Dr. Walter Parker, and more! Collaborate with fellow participants to support brave, civil, and reflective civic engagement. More details and form to sign up here.

Cohorts will begin May 23, 2022, and end June 30, 2022. DSN members who successfully earn their micro-credential will earn a $300 stipend. Space is limited. Spots will be allocated to represent the diverse regions and disciplinary contents in the DSN.

We hope that you will encourage colleagues from other schools to consider becoming an Illinois Democracy School (IDS) during the 2022-2023 school year. The process will involve a year-long self-assessment of the state of civic learning in their school, administration of surveys to both staff and students, and a school visit by the IDS staff. Supports include an orientation, a mentor to guide the team through the process, monitoring by IDS staff, assistance with data analysis, and financial support for certain expenses that might be incurred during the process.  

For educators who are interested in improving the civic learning landscape in their schools, we believe our model is a proven one. We also offer a network of like-minded teachers, robust professional development for proven practices in civics, funding opportunities, access to expert civic partners, and a trove of vetted resources. Please have interested folks email Sue at 


Here's what some of our members have been doing this past year!

Melinda Wilson, Curie High School (2016)

The creation of the project began in January and went live on March 16, 2022. This is our 10th year working with Human Trafficking Awareness and our second year working with CNN's #MyFreedomDay. Last year students created individual PSAs around Human Trafficking due to hybrid learning. This year, we incorporated the student's talents to include choral, dance, and drama. In addition, Curie's dance students presented a thoughtful PowerPoint, artwork that led to the theatre, and take-home buttons for audience members that included the human trafficking awareness hotline. Our audiences included middle school students, high school students, teachers, support staff and our administration. We received correspondence from many audience members, but one in particular stood out. A mother said she had brought her 13-year-old daughter, and the mom gave us the highest compliment by saying we turned an uncomfortable topic into a thorough and thoughtful production that not only answered all questions but also gave her daughter the information she needed to be safe. 

John Aldworth, Maine West (2009)

As part of Black History Month activities at Maine West High School, the Black Student Union and Building Equity Team organized a t-shirt giveaway for all students and staff who identify as Black or African American. Many of our staff and students are seen here wearing their "I Am Black Excellence" t-shirts.

Billson Rasavongxay, Hinsdale Central (2017), Kathy Lencioni, Hinsdale South (2020), Don Pankuch, Metea Valley (2011), Tom McManamen, Neuqua Valley (2012), Adam Dyche, Waubonsie Valley (2012).

A five-school collaborative effort to give students a space to talk about belonging, equity and inclusivity.

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Above: Hinsdale students celebrating at the end of a successful Youth Equity Summit.

Below: IPSD204 students presenting on key takeaways that will later be presented to building and district leaders.

Barbara Lindauer, Collinsville (2016)

Collinsville High School will hold a special place in the lives of 75 new American citizens who took the Oath of Allegiance during a Naturalization Oath Ceremony held in the CHS Auditorium on Monday, May 8, 2022. Friends and family, along with CHS students and staff, witnessed the momentous occasion marking the moment candidates for citizenship officially became United States citizens. Prior to the close of the ceremony, Judge McGlynn gave the new citizens an opportunity to share their life story and reflect on their journey to citizenship. They spoke of surviving refugee camps, receiving threats for everyday activities, limited personal freedom and opportunities, and how it feels to be an American.

Advisory Council Members, 2021-22:

Northern Illinois: Jason Janczak (Grayslake Central)

Central and Southern Illinois: Tracy Freeman (Normal West)

Northern Cook/Chicago: Carl Brownell (Maine East)

Western Cook/Chicago: Pat Riley (J. Sterling Morton West)

Southern Cook/Chicago: Melinda Wilson (Curie)

DuPage: Billson Rasavongxay (Hinsdale Central)

Kane, Kendall, Will: position open

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