Teaching Your Child Civic Engagement at Home

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Research shows that the biggest indicator of whether a child will grow up to be a regular, informed voter and engaged citizen is not race, gender, income, or education – it is whether or not their parents or other trusted adult modeled these behaviors and engaged in these activities with them. Spending time during stay-at-home helping developing your child’s civic chops is time well spent not just for you and your family, but our society as a whole. Here are a few ideas for how you can practice civic engagement from home!

Practice a little bit of civics everyday!

Kids Voting Durham, a program of the N.C. Cooperative Extension of Durham County has a blog is updated regularly with new activities for families at home. These are short and easy activities you can use with your children. And one plug, Kids Voting Durham is a great resource that is focused 365 days a year on engaging families together in elections and citizenship. They produce materials and hold events throughout the year such as a parent’s guide for each election and family voting celebrations.

Teach your kids how local government works

As a county employee I’d be remiss if I didn’t stress the importance of local government in improving our quality of life. To help kids take this to heart, iCivics has created a game called Counties Work, in which students learn about local government by playing a county official responding to citizen requests. iCivics has lots of other cool games on their site that promote important civics related lessons for kids of all ages. They have even put together a guide for using their online platform while learning at home during COVID-19.

Show your children the power of the census- by filling it out together

Making sure that you and everyone in your household are counted helps ensure that Durham will receive enough federal resources for schools, healthcare, roads, parks… all of those public goods we love! Filling out the census with your child is a great way for them to understand more about how all Americans are counted! The Census Bureaus Statistics in Schools site also has special activities for all ages just for at-home- learning during COVID-19.

Help your kids learn to discern truth from fiction

If COVID-19 has taught us nothing else, it is that there is A LOT of false information out there. For kids of all ages, NewseumED has searchable lessons and resources by grade and topic, including many resources on media literacy. For older learners, the Checkology platform for students in grades 6-12 from the News Literacy Project is a great resource full of real-world examples from social media and news sites.

Review the basics

We could all probably use an occasional update on how our country’s government works. Take this time to review while helping our kids learn the basics. One fun way to do this is through a podcast, Civics 101. Each episode reviews one part of how our democracy works. They’ve also got special learn-at-home activities to help your students stay engaged with civics during this stay-at-home period.

Engage in (non-COVID-related) discussions about current events

C-SPAN Classroom has topical videos and lesson plans to get you started.

Engage your child in anti-bias and social justice conversations and learning

One of my favorite resources for this is Teaching Tolerance. They have a full curriculum with learning objectives, film kits, reading texts- everything you need to provide your child with age-appropriate content knowledge and skills related to both prejudice reduction and collective action.

Show them the importance of service to others

In the best of times helping someone else makes us feel better about ourselves. In these times, a good confidence boost can help all of us, and especially our youngsters. While it is harder to help others while social distancing, the Points of Light organization has collected several ideas for doing virtual service projects for children of all ages.