Why It’s So Important to Carry Out Student Civic Action Projects in Schools

Why is it essential, especially now, to have student civic action projects in American classrooms? These are projects in which students — from 3rd or 4th grade on up, in all subjects — identify concerns in their school or community, research them, and plan and carry out actions to address the problems that they see around them. Here are some reasons.

  • School is our primary means of preparing children to be not just college and career ready, but also “citizen ready” to join and participate in our society. Where else can people learn this nowadays?
  • Teaching with social action emphasizes community at a time when society’s intense focus on individual achievement tends to eclipse community needs.
  • Teaching and learning with social action creates student engagement. It grabs onto children’s need to engage in meaningful, active, and empowering efforts to improve the world around them.
  • Teaching and learning with social action changes students’ mindsets about school. They come to see school and learning as connected to their lives and they can see themselves as learners who have a voice that adults value and respect.
  • This kind of learning creates a powerful purpose for students to develop academic skills. Standards these days stress lists of skills. But this work gives students immediate reasons for acquiring them.
  • Teaching and learning with social action also enables students to develop the skills to address the problems and injustices in their communities, so they don’t feel passive or dismissive about the social organizations around them. It gives them a voice.
  • Teaching and learning with social action is invigorating for teachers as well. Most teachers choose their profession out of a desire to make the world a better place, but they don’t always get the opportunity to see it happen before their eyes. This approach enables them to help students do that work NOW.

Check out the book From Inquiry to Action and read more about it at the website of Heinemann.com .

Written by

By Steve Zemelman, Director, IL Writing Project; author, “From Inquiry to Action;” co-author, “Subjects Matter” & “Best Practice;” Restorative Justice advisor

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