Generation Citizen’s published and award-winning action civics curriculum is at the heart of our work.
Our curriculum is action-based, aligned to Common Core and state standards, and academically rigorous. It has been developed and iterated over time with the help and feedback of our staff, teachers, volunteers, and outside consultants. Over the course of the twice-weekly semester-long in-class program, students choose an issue they care about, develop a focused, strategic plan to address the issue, take real action, and then reflect on their successes and challenges.
Each semester culminates in a Civics Day, in which student representatives from classes in each city present their work to other students, community members, and public officials, celebrating their work and gaining feedback to further their efforts. Civics Day is a chance for students to explore ways to continue their civic engagement after the end of the program. In the past, we have had governors, mayors, members of Congress, and other politicians are keynote speakers on Civics Day.
Unit 1: Identifying our Issue
Before Unit 1 begins, Democracy Coaches will attend a class to observe and briefly introduce themselves and the program (“Lesson 0”). They will introduce Generation Citizen, the movement of thousands of students working on issues, and what the class will do during the semester. They will also introduce themselves personally and briefly explain why they are part of the program. Lesson 1 begins by exposing students to examples of different tactics to make change, from Facebook campaigns to lobbying. By ranking the effectiveness of tactics relative to sample goals, students begin to understand the connections between them. They are then introduced to GC’s framework for advocacy, which will provide a map for the rest of the semester’s planning and action. In Lesson 2, students utilize small groups to generate, prioritize, and discuss issues they face in their own communities and lives that they want to address. Then, in Lesson 3, students marshal evidence to argue for their preferred issue. After narrowing down the number of issues, students employ a consensus-building process to decide upon one “focus issue” as an entire class. Students then turn to researching and gathering evidence on the root causes of their focus issue in Lessons 4 and 5, examining print and online materials, and hearing from an issue or community expert speaker in class. After identifying the most important root cause that is also feasible to address in the semester timeframe, students craft a goal statement to connect addressing that root cause to their desired impact on the overall focus issue.
Unit 2: Planning our Action
Students now move into the action planning process in earnest, selecting targets for their action. In Lesson 6, students use their goal statement to identify a decision-maker – someone who could, by him- or herself, effect the desired change. Students then look at the specific powers that decision-maker has and draft an “ask” they will make of him or her. They then analyze the decision-maker’s own priority issues and responsibilities to craft key messages, or arguments. Students turn to other targets in Lesson 7, considering individuals and groups whose help they will need to enlist (“influencers” or “targets”) who can also influence the decision-maker. In Lesson 8, the students determine how they will reach those targets, examining and choosing from a diverse array of tactics, from writing op-eds to lobbying to holding a public meeting. After this lesson, the class is ready to break into project teams oriented around the target decision-maker and influencers to begin executing their chosen tactics.
Unit 3: Taking Action
After selecting tactics to employ, students break into project teams to create work plans and role assignments to execute those tactics. Students carry out their action plan within project teams. Democracy Coaches and teachers select mini-lessons on advocacy tactics as they become relevant. Students practice and employ persuasive writing and speaking, group collaboration, and research skills to achieve their goal.
Unit 4: Taking the Next Step
Students prepare for and then present on their work at Civics Day, an event where GC students from across the city share their projects with other students, community members, and public officials, who serve as judges to provide feedback so that students can continue their efforts. The final lesson of the curriculum gives students an opportunity to critically reflect upon their work and discuss avenues for continued active civic engagement.
Please contact info@GenerationCitizen.org if you are interested in learning more.