Elementary Students Can Be Civically Engaged as Well. Here Are Some Tools

Photo Ryan Boyd- https://www.tpr.org/education/2012-11-06/mock-election-helps-fenwick-elementary-students-see-value-in-voting

Dr. David J. Childs, D.D., Ph.D.
Northern Kentucky University


Many people feel that students in the elementary grades are too young to be involved in the democratic process. But the K-5 grades are the ideal ages to get children civically involved. In fact, early exposure can even help them better understand their rights as citizens in a democracy. In this entry we are reposting an article we published in the past surrounding children and civic engagement.

This article was originally posted May 24, 2021.

An I-Civics article entitled “Civic Learning Resources for Elementary Students” states:

“All students can be civic learners. For many, the elementary school classroom is the first civic space they encounter as they speak up about fairness and engage in other classroom activities that model democratic processes…”

When it comes to elementary age students many people do not expect them to understand how  a democracy works and what rights they have. Furthermore, it may be difficult to imagine how they can be civically involved. But we provide some resources for elementary teachers that can get their students civically involved. Check out these ideas:


Voters From Around The U.S. Share Their Election Day Stories By NPR November 6, 2018.

1. Children of all ages can be civic learners. Here are some great examples of civic lessons for young learners that can keep 7-to 10-year-olds occupied on their summer break!

2. Here are some ideas discussed on an I-civcs blog page entitled Citizenship and Elementary Education- how do you teach that? The site states that “while elementary school students may not fully understand federalism, they can learn the basic principles behind citizenship and the role they play on a smaller scale.” Listen in as an elementary school teacher (Alyssa Messier) shares “tips on using classroom democracy to teach the power of a voice and the improvement of being informed.”

3. In the article Raising little citizens: Civics lessons for K-5 Kids a homeschool parent and former teacher (Amber Coleman-Mortley) “shares her experience in developing civility and civic responsibility in her elementary-aged children at home. This resource offers advice that can be incorporated into the classroom as well as ways for families to grow closer through civics education.”

4. KidCitizen (supported by the Library of Congress), teaches concepts of history, civics and government to K-5 students using primary source photographs. The resources on the site allow students to engage with the primary sources and concepts through a number of interactive videos.

5. We the Civics Kids site, created by the National Constitution Center provides fun and engaging civic lesson plans for every grade level. The site allows one to choose state standards that align with specific grade level finding developmentally appropriate resources.


A 2nd-grade student votes during a mock election at his school in Gainesville, Florida, November 3, 2020. Photo by Brad McClenny/Reuters.

Click here to check out many more lessons, activities and resources designed to teach civics to children in elementary grades from Edutopia.

6 Comments

  1. This is a great article in encouraging the teaching of the democratic process at an early age. I like how Dr. Child’s pointed out that this exposure early on can better serve you in knowing your rights as a citizen. Something that I kept pondering on as I was reading this article is how when kids are informed and able to then form their own opinion, it will help to eliminate some of the bias opinions that are solely based on believing the only thing they’ve been told. I agree with Megan’s comment above, in the fact that I, too, came from a rural town where everyone know who voted for who. I believe that this type of environment is unhealthy and results in people being afraid to take a stance on what they believe. With these resources above we can get a great start on incorporating the democratic process right in our classroom. I am looking forward to using some of these!

  2. I found this article to be very enticing because I did not feel like my elementary school did a very good job making sure that students were civically engaged. I felt like my elementary school only tried to teach to the Indiana state test where social studies knowledge was only tested every other year. We were taught to a test instead of focusing on lifetime knowledge. We never held elections and living in a rural, small town, even our teachers expressed who they thought should win presidential elections during those years. However, while reading the article, I realized my school did do some good things. We did write persuasive letters to our school board on why we didn’t want school uniforms and had classroom jobs which gave everybody a sense of belonging. I hope to have a more involved classroom environment where I can teach students how to be great citizens in the classroom and the world. Our students deserve more than what I felt I got at their age.

    • Awesome. Good discussion here Megan Cole. I like what you said here We were taught to a test instead of focusing on lifetime knowledge. We never held elections and living in a rural, small town, even our teachers expressed who they thought should win presidential elections during those years.”

  3. I really liked this article. I think it is smart for students to learn how to be civic learners and learn about the democratic process. When I was in school, I learned about the processes in general but not like how these resources review it. I like how this article gives resources for students to learn about the democratic process in good detail. It is important for students to learn about the democratic process as soon as possible and to keep learning more as they increase in age. 

  4. I really liked this article. I think it is smart for students to learn how to be civic learners and learn about the democratic process. When I was in school, I learned about the processes in general but not like how these resources review it. I like how this article gives resources for students to learn about the democratic process in good detail. It is important for students to learn about the democratic process as soon as possible and to keep learning more as they increase in age. 

  5. I really enjoyed this article. Growing up my school did a great job at making sure the students were civically engaged. They held mock elections during presidential election terms. We had a student government where we would assemble to hear each candidate’s campaign and vote for a president and other positions. Growing up this made me interested in our government and how our country is run. Learning about democracy and our government was always very interesting to me. I do feel now with the political climate schools have been so turned away from creating these experiences for their students, which creates avoid in these students’ educations. I loved the resources that were linked and can’t wait to utilize these in my classroom.

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