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.

3 Comments

  1. I chose this particular article because I thought it would be very beneficial to me in the future because my plan is to teach elementary aged students. Teaching children to be civically engaged was something I haven’t thought much about but reading this article I found reasons why it is important to start at a young age. Being civically engaged could mean that students are using their voices to speak about fairness in the classroom and other democratic ideas. It teaches them that we live in a democratic society and that they have a voice. I loved learning all of these resources so I feel more informed on how to help elementary students learn how to become civically engaged. I think by making civics something fun and engaging at a young age it will make it more likely they will continue to learn more as they grow up. It is important to make sure students feel safe and heard participating in civic lessons so they can learn these important skills. There are so many fun and interactive ways to involve and teach children to be engaged in civics and I can’t wait to implement some of these ideas into my future classroom.

  2. I thought that the article was very informative in terms of educating children aged 7-10 years about the basics of civic rights and how to be involved starting on a smaller scale. It’s important that the next generation be taught about democratic values as part of their curriculum in school as it provides them enough knowledge to grow and make informed decisions about their civic duties. This allows them to be freethinkers that can form their own opinions rather than be influenced by people around them. The resources provided also make it fun and engaging to hold onto their limited attention span.

  3. I chose this article because I am an elementary education major. I learned that children can be taught to think civically at young ages. It was interesting reading all of the different ways children can actively learn civically. I really enjoyed reading the article Citizenship and Elementary Education- how do you teach that? While reading this article I learned that there are many ways we as educators can implement democracy into our classrooms. For example, creating a classroom constitution, allowing students to vote, and by creating classroom jobs/responsibilities for each student.

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