Beginning next year, Indiana middle schoolers will take classes on civics and government previously only required in high school. Ball State University will help Hoosier teachers prepare, thanks to a multi-year, $1.3 million federal grant. The plan is to model it in Muncie, then roll it out statewide.
Julie Snider has taught government classes in Muncie schools for more than 20 years. She regularly takes students to local city council and school board meetings. For middle schoolers, she says adding a “foundation of civic attitude” will help set up that way of thinking.
“Having a student council, having mock elections, letting them kind-of understand the process through action. Our kids are so far removed from the process now that, as they get older, it just becomes worse and worse.”
Plans for the three-year grant through the US Department of Education include creating extensive class resources and monthly professional development for teachers, a yearly symposium with national-level experts, and a summer Civic Learning Academy for both teachers and students.
David Roof, Ball State associate professor of educational studies, will co-lead the team creating these resources under the name CREATE - Civic Renewal through Education for Agency. He says they’ve also built in money to support teachers who have a great project idea or field trip, like trips to the Statehouse in Indianapolis and the Indiana Supreme Court, or attending civics symposiums from the Indiana Bar Association.
“This project’s going to give teachers the opportunity to design projects, field trips, things they want to do. And I’ve already been hearing a lot of interest in doing some really wonderful things.”
Kate Elliot, Ball State lecturer of journalism, is also on the team, adding media literacy to the offerings for teachers. She says she’s excited to focus talk of civics on how to personally engage with your community.
“The vision of this grant and this opportunity is to not only connect with our students and teachers about these topics – history, civics, media literacy – but to get them involved in innovative and entrepreneurial ways that can make a difference in our community, and show them that they can make a difference, so they continue to want to make a difference for the rest of their lives.”
The grant team will also focus on incorporating civic engagement principles into more classes than government or history and at many different age levels.