Resources for Teaching Civic Engagement in the Classroom

USC Dornsife junior Cashae Ellis discusses 2016 ballot measures with high school students studying local government. (Photo/Mike Glier)
USC Dornsife junior Cashae Ellis discusses 2016 Ballot measures with a group of high school students studying local government. (Photo/Mike Glier)

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

With technology rapidly advancing the classroom and tecahing evironment is changing nearly everyday. Furthermore, educators tasked to teach youth how to be civically and social justice have their hands full in our time. There is a sharp divide in the US on best approaches to respond to social justice issues. Indeed many people on the political right do not even think that the US has major issues as it relates to social and racial justice. Regardless of one’s political affiliation there are many obtsacles to overcome related to diversity and equity. A great resource available to teachers and parents for teaching about social justice issues is the Learning for Justice website (Formally Teaching Tolerance). We would like to highlight a great resource from the Learning for Justice entitled Teaching as Activism, Teaching as Care by Jamilah Pitts.

USC Dornsife junior Cashae Ellis discusses 2016 ballot measures with high school students studying local government. (Photo/Mike Glier)
USC Dornsife junior Cashae Ellis discusses 2016 ballot measures with high
school students studying local government. (Photo/Mike Glier)

Teaching as Activism, Teaching as Care
Pitt provides some suggestions for teachers who want to get their students involved in civic engagement and activism. They are list below:

  1. “Provide journal responses, or space for free writes, for students to reflect or share their feelings on what is happening. Allow students space and time to process difficult feelings and emotions that are coming up for them now.
  2. Check in with families and students whose lives may be even more difficult right now, asking them what they need. 
  3. Create and send care packages to family and students. 
  4. Choose texts that can open up a conversation around what is happening right now.
  5. Provide space and time for mindful moments for students (as many students may be completely worried right now). 
  6. Create project-based assignments and lessons that allow students to use their social media platform to bring light to injustice, disparity, and to communities and their leaders
  7. Develop writing assignments wherein students write to public officials to raise awareness about their communities. 
  8. Teach about elections and the importance of elections, given the disparities that are deeply exposed now. 
  9. Have students write letters soliciting donations for families or other children who may be in need. 
  10. Allow students to guide what their learning might look like now. Carve out time to listen in to students’ thoughts, feelings, fears and frustrations, as well as their sources of joy.”

In a recent article we have written about the importance of average citizens being civically engaged and the idea that people view meaningful civic involvement as being done by only the political elite. We encourage teachers and even parents to integrate the ideas mentioned above with youth, even if you have a little hesitation. Jamilah Pitts and the Learning for Justice website provide many great ideas to get our youth politically engaged. 

Please share what resources you find useful for your teaching.We are open to feedback and discussion. If you see any typos or grammatical errors please feel free to email the author and editor at the address below:


  1. When scrolling through the articles listed on this page this one immediately caught my eye. I found the article interesting for several reasons. The first reason is because when I think back to my K-8 education, it is hard for me to remember a time where this was a topic brought up into the classroom. As an education major, I recognize hoe big of a deal it is that I did not have any civic engagement when I was young, nor did I even know what that meant. This article gave me ideas and inspiration on how to teach this topic to my students and how to better help my kids and their families.

  2. As an education major, this article was very helpful for me. Encouraging the education toward civil engagement is so important,but can be daunting for new teachers who don’t know how to go about approaching the topics. This article provides great resource and advice to create a solid foundation and starting point for teachers to use throughout their educational journey.

  3. I really enjoyed this article because I am a future teacher, and it is really nice to see many ways to teach civic engagement and activism. It is imprints to teach this because it will give kids an understanding of what is going on in the world and have the prepared for things they will see and hear.

  4. I loved the information in this article specifically the Teaching as Activism, Teaching as Care section. I am going into elementary education so I will use this resource as a reminder to check in with families to see what they need, sending care packages to families and students, provide time to listen to students thoughts and feelings, and choosing texts about what is going on in the world right now. This will help me build positive relationships with the students and families of my classroom and allow them to feel cared for and safe which is a very important aspect of teaching to me.

  5. I loved this article. It is important to me because even though I am going into early childhood education, it is still important to teach civic engagement. I will use these resources, specifically, checking in with families, asking them what they need, and creating and sending care packages to families. This will help my relationship with the families of my students grow and thrive. I love to help people, so this is important and meaningful to me.

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