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.