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Friday, November 19, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Getting ready to celebrate Thanksgiving? In addition to giving thanks, use this holiday as an opportunity for civic learning.
  • Thanksgiving commemorates a feast shared by colonists and Native Americans in Plymouth in 1621. This started a tradition of harvest celebrations that lasted for 2 centuries.
  • In 1777, the Continental Congress declared the First National Proclamation of Thanksgiving. George Washington, then a war leader (later to be president) declared Thanksgiving to be a victory celebration honoring the defeat of the British.
  • In 1863 - in the middle of the Civil War - President Abraham Lincoln made Thanksgiving a national holiday.
  • In December 1941, President Roosevelt set a fixed date for Thanksgiving - the 4th Thursday in November.

Some questions to think about and discuss:
  • Why did Thanksgiving start?
  • Can you think of other situations where two different groups are brought together to share a meal?
  • Are there similarities between the way Thanksgiving was organized by local leaders and how decisions and policies are made by local leaders in our community?
  • What are the traditional Thanksgiving foods? Why do we eat different things for Thanksgiving than on another holiday, such as the Fourth of July?
  • Why was Thanksgiving made official in 1777? Why did George Washington say it was a victory celebration?
  • Why did President Lincoln declare Thanksgiving as a national holiday? Is it significant that he did it in 1863?
  • Why did President Roosevelt set the annual date for Thanksgiving? Why was this done in December 1941?
  • If you were President, would you declare a national holiday? What would it be and why? Write your proclamation, read it out loud and discuss with your family or classroom.
  • Do other countries celebrate Thanksgiving? What is similar or different? 
  • Does Thanksgiving impact the economy? How? Which industries?
  • Have you attended a Thanksgiving parade or watched one on TV? What are the different kinds of government involved in the parade including planning the parade route and keeping the streets safe?

History of Thanksgiving from

Learn more about Thanksgiving:
Resources from
Learn about the Mayflower

Monday, November 8, 2010

Learning Opportunity: Veterans Day

Veterans Day commemorates the sacrifices of our nation's veterans and is held on November 11th, the anniversary of the armistice which ended World War I. It is a celebration to honor America's veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good.

Use this learning opportunity to explore history, civics, reading and writing, 21st century content and more:
  • History: When was Veterans Day established and why?
  • Global connections: Do other countries honor their veterans? How?
  • Language Arts: Interview a veteran. Write a story about or a letter to a veteran. Write a newspaper article or editorial about veterans. Read and summarize the Presidential Proclamation
  • Role play: veterans of different wars through history, leaders and officials making policies that impact veterans (celebrations, budgeting their benefits, etc.)
  • Local government: Earlier this year, the Mecklenburg County Commission approved a budget that decreased funding to the local veteran's office (news stories here, here and here) at the same time cuts were made to schools, libraries and parks. View county budget here and search 'veterans'. Many veterans protested and spoke out about the cuts. Jim Pendergraph, who was elected last week to the county commission, has pledged to restore funding to the veterans office. Creating a budget is a balancing act - what would you do if you were a leader in this position? How do other NC counties fund local veterans services? If you were creating the 2011 budget, how would you budget for veterans and why?

Learn more about Veteran's Day

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

What happens after Election Day?

Tuesday was Election Day. Today - and until November 8, 2011 -  it's not. Does that mean we stop caring about the candidates and issues for a whole year?

Of course not! Being a smart, active citizen means you stay on top of the issues and keep track of the candidates who have been elected into office. Here are some things you can do:

Over the next few days, look for election results.
  • Analyze the results.
  • Compare how different media sources report the same news.
  • Compare turnout in different places across the county, state and country.
  • Were there any surprises? Have any major changes happened because of the election?
  • Does voter turnout in the US the same as it is in other countries? Why or why not?
  • Did the student vote match the adult vote? Why or why not?

Keep track of the winning candidates. Most will be sworn into office in December and January.
  • Do they make good decisions?
  • Do they keep their campaign promises?
  • Are they exhibiting leadership qualities? Like what?
  • Are they operating as politicians? How?
Read what candidates promised at CharMeckVotes, candidate websites and Kids Voting's student interviews (view on Facebook or Slideshare)

Get involved.
  • Follow the issues you care about.
  • Watch or attend government meetings.
  • Email or call officials - let them know what's on your mind!
  • If you are a teen, sign up for Kids Voting's programs YouthCivics and Mecklenburg Youth Voice.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Election Day!

Students have been voting online, early and absentee at school since October 20. Another way to participate is on Election Day, November 2, 2010. K-12 students can visit certain Mecklenburg County polling sites between 3:00 and 7:30PM and cast votes in Election 2010. Students may also cast a vote online The votes aren't official, however Kids Voting will tally all of the votes and announce them to the public.

Kids Voting Mecklenburg offers many resources for election study

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