Tuesday, August 23, 2011


Welcome back. It’s the 2011-2012 school year! Wow, that’s incredible. As each new school year rolls in, I am always amazed at the new hopes and new plans implemented.  I love hearing about improving student engaging and seeking ways to help students make connections that will help them make wise decisions and stay focused on their education. I have traveled to many different school districts across our country this year and the common bond I find is student engagement.  Great gains are being made in the classroom with best practices shared and good instructional strategies that help students take ownership in their learning.  One area that seems to be taking the back seat is social studies because it is not tested like the other subjects. Consequently, time that was spent on geography, history and civics is taking a back seat to the high-stakes tested subjects. In recognition of this decline in civics knowledge in our nation, Sandra Day O’Conner, former Supreme Court justice, has been promoting the need for our children to learn more about our nation.  This “tuesdays” we will take a look at an amazing website that meets our students need for information with a medium that engages them.

A creative website

iCivics was birthed from Sandra Day O’Connors concern that students were not getting the information and tools needed and that teachers needed more engaging materials for this subject that doesn’t always grab students initially. iCivcs is a web-based education project designed to teach students civics and inspire them to be active participants in our democracy. As I delved deeper into the website I was amazed at its depth. There are tons of games that are computer generated simulations that allow the students to become the president for a day, a Supreme Court justice, a constitutional lawyer and many more.  You can even sort the games by length of play!  Want a real short bellringer?  They have them. For the teachers, there is a wealth of related materials, online activities that can be assigned to students, webquests to experience with the class, lesson plans and even offers teachers the ability to search for content by the state standards.  It is thorough, well-planned and worth sharing across the whole district.

An image to share

A proverb
“ A constitutional democracy is in serious trouble if its citizenry does not have a certain degree of education and civic virtue.”   Philip E. Johnson


An encouragement

If you are not a social studies teacher, find one! This may be one of the best back-to-school gifts you can given them.  The state of Florida is requiring all 7th graders to pass a civics course starting next year and this may be the absolute best way to engage our students in the study of our government.  A very dismal poll showed that the decline of civics knowledge has rapidly increased since high stakes testing. Without encouraging our children to understand the incredible processes by which our government operates, we will have no democracy. Even if civics was not your favorite subject, I’m sure you can agree that without civics education and participation in our government, this free nation of ours cannot remain free.  Let’s encourage all our social studies teachers to use iCivics this year!

How do you do that?

Signing up for an account gives you the ability to be extra engaged in all the iCivics activities.  I created an avatar and the program randomly generated my player name – Red Organizer 998. I was unable to make my avatar with many options because I hadn’t earned many points yet.  The students learn financial stewardship, entrepreneurial options and a sense of giving. This brilliant site encapsulates the love of how unique the American democracy is.  As a teacher, I would definitely sign up for an account and begin experimenting. I recommend that you watch the Prezi explanation of the depth of the site.  It was very helpful for getting the big picture of the impact this initiative could make. Enjoy the new school year and keep up the good work seeking ways to engage our students to become independent learners.

As always, I am
Ubiquitously yours,

No comments: