Elementary teachers gathered in June at the colorful and inspiring venue of the Children's Museum of NH to learn about how to integrate civics concepts at the elementary level. The workshop was entitled "Empowering Our Youngest Citizens: Civic Engagement in Elementary School."
The 44 educators explored such questions as: "How can we make sure our children grow to have civics attitudes and skills, civics knowledge in the face of pressure to focus on STEM, reading, and math?," and "How to translate sometimes complicated and abstract concepts into classroom practice and materials young children can understand?"
Former first lady of Pennsylvania and US Appeals Court Judge Marjorie Rendell, a national figure advocating for civics in elementary school, provided the teachers with inspiration and made a case for the urgent need for our educators to focus on civics again. Rebecca Valbuena, a teacher coach and award-winning elementary school teacher from Glendora Unified School District in California, presented on "Taking Informed Action," "Service Learning Using the C3 Standards as a Guide," and "Teaching the History of Voting Rights." Beth Specker of the Rendell Center in PA presented her curriculum, "We the Civics Kids."
Our local teachers had a great deal to contribute as well. Trish Ziakis and Anneliese Worster ("Captivating Young Minds and Hearts: Civic Engagement Through the Inquiry Arc") and Susan Wolowitz ("Teaching the Court System in Elementary School"), all educators based in Concord, shared their curricula and techniques. Jan Shafer of Boston presented the "Children Discovering Justice" curriculum.
Authors Gloria Gavris ("E is for Election Day") and JJ and Emilia Prior ("The Patriot Papers") were present to share, sell, and sign their books.
The Children's Museum sought ideas from educators about how to provide civics-oriented programs and exhibits in the future, and especially during the upcoming election season. Each educator will design a curriculum inspired by these days to be shared with other NH educators via NHICE's web page and in the Constitutionally Speaking with Educators newsletter. This workshop was free and provides participants professional development hours and a stipend.
This was a team effort on the part of our steering committee which included Jane Slayton, principal of Andover Elementary/Middle School, Jane Bard, president of the Children's Museum of NH, and Susan Wolowitz; and our sponsors: The Rendell Institute for Civics and Civic Engagement, The Treat Foundation, William Upton, the New Hampshire Bar Foundation, Salem State University, McLane Middleton, Susan and David Wolowitz, and Dos Amigos Burritos. Martha Madsen is NHICE president.