Exploring Civics With Your Child

How should kids use the site?

Students can use the site for several reasons. Civics Online provides students with a large library of civics resources that they can access for research purposes. The site can support classroom learning and allow students to gain a deeper understanding of civics themes. This understanding is fostered in the documents themselves as well as in the glossary and timelines. Through the Civic Explorations students have the opportunity to trace key Civics themes and use primary sources in considering current events. For example, the site has a Civic Exploration around the Elian Gonzalez case. By providing students with background information on the case, students are given insight into the Elian incident and encouraged to form their own opinions by relating it back to Civics issues. The Civic Explorations helps students make a real word connection to civics themes.

How can parents support that kind of use?

Parents can support their child’s use of the student section of Civics Online by getting involved and encouraging their child to explore the site. Parents can also use the site to support the suggestions from the parent involvement list. For example, a parent could use Civics Online to research a political issue or to research a historic place the family may visit. Parents can also help students contextulize and understand the significance of the documents. By working with their child on the Civics Online site, parents can help make a personal or family connection to the documents

Ten Kinds of Activities to do with your students that support your child’s civic education:

l.  Subscribe to age appropriate news magazines. Read and discuss each month_s stories with your child.  For Middle and High School students, provide a good daily newspaper or weekend edition.  

2. Monitor and participate in your child’s television viewing. Watch the evening news with your child and discuss important stories.  Schedule family viewing around one of the "news magazines" like "Sixty Minutes" or "20/20".  Check the television listings for quality historical documentaries like "The American Experience", C-Span features, or programming on "The History Channel".  Discuss the content of the programs. Follow up with reading projects and trips to the public library.

3. Plan family vacations to places of historical significance like Washington D.C., Civil War battlefield sites, Ellis Island, the state capitol, a state historical museum, or a local presidential library.  Provide maps and brochures; let your child plan the itinerary.

4. Visit local places of government. Much can be learned in childhood trips to the police station, firehouse, city hall, and courthouse.  Take a family local history tour of monuments, historic buildings, and parks.  The county museum is a good place to start.

5. Use family time for story telling.  Dinner table conversation about history, great leaders, and social change can be tied to stories about family history. Children are naturally curious about their personal connection to things.  How did the family come to America?  How did economic and social change affect our family's history?  How did war affect the family?  What political affiliations has our family had?  What was it like when you were young?

6. Share your political beliefs with your children, but remember that education and indoctrination are different.  Explain the democratic process to them.  Stress the responsibilities of citizenship.  Emphasize the ways in which differences are settled through our constitutional system and by the rule of law.

7. Find ways to be an example of good citizenship for your children.  Volunteer for an environmental clean up campaign, take them to a recycling center on Saturdays, participate in a fund raiser for a local charity,  take the kids with you to the polling place when you vote,  go to the Memorial Day or Veteran’s Day parades with them,  instruct the family on the proper ways to display the flag,  and teach your children to respect the rights of others.    

8.  Encourage and support your child in entering civic writing competitions, patriotic poster contests, and other opportunities that support civic education and self expression.

9.  Guide and participate in your child's leisure reading. Weekly trips to the public library of local bookstore can be family oriented fun.  Children need to be exposed to historical role models. Gifts of age appropriate biographies and historical titles is a wonderful way to support this.

10.  Encourage your child's hobbies and play activities in the direction of civic and history education. Explore historical web sites with them (the presidential libraries are excellent).  Visit virtual museums on line.  Encourage collections (arrowheads, political buttons, stamps, presidential postcards, etc). Have fun with the video camera making "movies" with historical themes and role-playing.

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Civics Online
Creation Date: 2/21/2000
Last Updated: 3/20/2005