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Thursday, May 12, 2011

Putting civics in action

City council simulation

Discussing ways to evaluate teachers

Jury deliberates in mock trial

At a City Council meeting

Teens wrapped up Kids Voting Mecklenburg's 2010-11 YouthCivics program recently with a visit to the Board of Elections. They learned about voter registration, campaign finance, election procedures, practiced voting on real voting machines and then tested their knowledge with a game of Civics Jeopardy.

Between November and April, over 100 students took part in the unique learning opportunity designed to introduce students to local government. The program helps students with school (civics is a graduation requirement, though educational resources about local government are lacking), narrows learning opportunity gaps (due to trends in testing and funding, schools teach little civics and government until 10th grade - plus many adults don't know about civics themselves, or are too busy to care) and connects students with governments, leaders and issues impacting children and youth.

Students learned about local government, the media, the courts and the budget process. They visited city council, county commission and school board meetings, did a mock trial, discussed media coverage with newspaper reporters and weighed in on school policies with school leaders.

Students say the experience has many benefits. It helps in school; enables them to connect classroom study with real experiences; builds knowledge about government, leaders, citizens and decisions; and gives them an advantage over peers who have not been in the program. Some comments:
  • Youth Civics has already helped me in my Civics and Economics class. 
  • When my teacher begins to talk about our government I will have an idea of what she is actually saying.
  • I got to experience everything i was learning about in class, in person, such as the county commissions and their various jobs they have to do. It helped me visualize, understand and remember everything more.
  • This was my first time seeing a judge in person so I hung on his every word. He gave us a lot of examples of how the law is applied in real life. I also saw the mayor!!!!
  • We learned how the budgets are made. Where the money comes from/where it goes. I may not agree, but I understand how they got there.
  • I had a chance to talk with Peter Gorman about a policy I didn't like. He listened to what I had to say, and helped me to understand how decisions are made. He asked us as students to come up with solutions. That made a difference, even though it is much harder than I thought.
  • It definitely gave me a hands on experience. Instead of just learning the topics, I actually made a trip to see government and watched it happen in action. It helped me grasp the information a lot better.
Read more comments
View more photos
Read student views on local issues

The next YouthCivics program will kick off in November 2011. Kids Voting Mecklenburg is also available for scouts, classes and youth programs who want to visit a government meeting through YouthCivics Introduction. Contact us for more information.

If you think YouthCivics is a great idea, we want to hear from you. We're working on strategies to expand this valuable program so that all 10th grade students (and others) can benefit. We need financial resources and volunteers to make it happen. If you'd like to get involved, or involve your organization, let us know!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Student Voices

Jalen Feaster (Mallard Creek), Aidan McConnell (Providence), Tyiste Taylor (West Charlotte) and Henry Schoenhoff (Myers Park) discuss school and community issues

Read what students involved in Kids Voting Mecklenburg program Youth Voice, a civic leadership alliance, had to say about Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, budgets, class sizes and leadership.

What do you think would happen if there were student representatives on the school board? city council? county commission? Would decisions on issues impacting children and youth be different? 

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Giving Charlotte's students an advantage

Recently, civics education has been in the news. The National Assessment of Educational Progress released its 2010 Nation's Civics Report Card, and the results were not good. About 1/4 of 4th and 8th graders and 1/3 of 12th graders scored proficient or higher. Why? So much emphasis and funding is directed at schools on math, reading and science, among other things.

The New York Times weighed in with a title that says it all: Failing Grades on Civics Exam a 'Crisis'. Dozens of other news organizations covered the story too.

In March, US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan made a case for effective civics education. He touted programs that combine classroom education with community civic learning opportunities.

That's just what Kids Voting Mecklenburg is doing to give Charlotte-area K-12 students an advantage. Programs and resources help students in school (supporting goals in civics, history, reading, writing and 21st century learning), increase civic literacy, and develop effective citizens and leaders.