Middle school New Hampshire educators spent two days in June aimed at expanding their repertoire for teaching civics to their students. "Empowering Connected Citizens: Making Civics Count in Middle School" was the NH Institute for Civics Education's first gathering tailored specifically for middle school teachers. Saint Anselm's NH Institute of Politics hosted these days focused on integrating civics understanding with technology, music, cartooning, and literature.
The 38 teachers talked about the lack of civility in our public and private discourse, and how it is troubling as educators and as citizens. They explored how they can work to change this, given new technology and a polarization of politics, starting with their students.
Among the speakers were:
• Valerie McVey of iCivics and the Florida Joint Center for Citizenship, who presented on the state of civics education, best practices in civics education, game-based learning, and iCivics.
• Sarah Shanahan, Education Director at Media Power Youth of NH, presented on engaging students positively using the new social media.
• Tricia Lucas, former middle school teacher and lawyer, provided participants with Tools and Rules for Advocacy in New Hampshire.
• Vicki Hebert of Youth 2 Youth in Dover, shared her success working with youth to successfully advocate for change at the business, school, community, and state levels.
• The NH Bar's Jared Bedrick and Richard Vassar of Amherst Middle School described how mock trials in and out of the classroom can dovetail with Common Core standards.
A highlight for participants was NH's own Marek Bennett's presentation on using music as a window into history and a research tool. He performed "Dan Tucker," playing the banjo with several educators backing him up on traditional instruments such as bones, jawbone, and drum. He demonstrated how cartoons can make the abstract concepts such as rights and freedoms more understandable and concrete, and had teachers creating their own cartoons!
These days happened because a team of talented and committed individuals and groups worked together. Thanks to our sponsors (iCivics, the Florida Joint Center for Citizenship, The Treat Foundation, The NH Bar Foundation, William Upton, Discovering Justice, the NH Bar Association) and to the steering committee (Dianna Terrell of Saint Anselm College, Dellie Champagne of Polaris Charter School, and Aaron Mitchell, attorney.) Martha Madsen is NHICE president.
The next NHICE workshop planned - set for March 8, 2017 at Dartmouth College - is intended for teams of high school teachers, administrators, and students, who are looking to learn more about authentic student government. The Council of Hanover High will share their form of student government which has been part of their school culture and structure since the 1970's. Dr. Marc Brasof, of Arcadia University and The Rendell Center for Civics and Civic Engagement, will also present his scholarly work, research, and practice experience in this area.
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