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 McCormick Foundation Civics Program: TEACHER BULLETIN  |  February 2012 / Volume 50

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February Welcome

A presidential election year bursts with opportunities to integrate civics into curriculum. There are so many entry points it’s hard to know where to start. In this issue of FreeSource, we spotlight some resources and ways you can bring the elections and civics alive in the classroom.

One way to get students engaged in the elections is by bringing the process to them in a local way. Even if there are no local elections in your school district this year, consider inviting a school board member or local elected official to your classroom. Pick a topic or theme for the visit such as how a candidate gets elected and campaigning. What does this official do during an election season to gather support? What types of state and local laws must they follow in campaigning and fundraising? Illinois voters will be electing new U.S. House of Representative members in November and it may be worth seeing if a candidate can visit your classroom.

Is your school a polling place for the elections? Talk to students about what happens on Election Day at the school and around town. Point out that election laws govern things such as how close supporters can hold signs near the school and how candidates disclose campaign funds. What do election officials at a polling place do to make sure every person only gets one vote (and that they are who they say they are)? Someone from the local election commission could help your students understand this process and may be willing to visit your classroom.

If you have a great elections lesson plan or story to share, let us know on Facebook or e-mail us! We would love to spotlight your idea and share it with other educators in the upcoming year.

Jamie Loo
Online Resources Producer

Teaching the 2012 Election
Shawn Healy, Resident Scholar and Director of Professional Development

Elections are an ideal avenue of developing civically engaged citizens. Opportunities for political engagement abound, from voting and persuading others, to displaying campaign material, to making financial contributions to a candidate or party, to volunteering on the front lines of the campaign. They represent a true “teachable moment” for educators as we seek to develop civic knowledge, skills, and attitudes among tomorrow’s voters, our students. Students and teachers throughout Illinois enjoy access to an impressive array of statewide and national programs poised to teach the 2012 Election through proven civic learning practices.

For students, campaigns are stimulants of cognitive engagement with the political process through knowledge acquisition, news attentiveness, and political conversations with family and friends (Zukin et al, 2006).

The examples described above are best achieved through six proven civic learning practices outlined in the Guardian of Democracy report (Annenberg, 2011):

1.    Formal instruction in U.S. government, history, law, and democracy;

2.    Structured engagement with current and controversial issues;

3.    Service learning linked to the formal curriculum and classroom instruction;

4.    Extracurricular activities that encourage greater involvement and connection to school and community;

5.    Authentic opportunities for student leadership and decision-making;

6.    And participation in simulations of democratic structures and processes.

The following programs and resources, available to students and teachers throughout Illinois, exemplify these proven civic learning practices, and are thus numbered accordingly:

1.    McCormick Foundation’s Road to the White House curricula: A comprehensive lesson plan series that facilitates candidate research, illuminates the party nominating process and the Electoral College, and offers tools for critical analysis of behind-the-scenes forces, including media coverage, polling data, and campaign finance.

2.    Rock the Vote’s Democracy Class: A one-class period program focusing on voting rights and specifically the 26th Amendment which lowered the voting age to 18, Democracy Class uses video, classroom discussion, and a mock election to help students navigate the voting process.

Please click here to learn about more election resources.

Spotlight: 2012 Election Resources

CIRCLE Youth Voting/Political Participation

Constitutional Rights Foundation

Constitutional Rights Foundation Chicago Illinois Youth Summit

CNN Election Center 2012




Kids Voting USA

League of Women Voters of Illinois Student Vote

Mikva Elections in Action

Pew Research Center’s political typology test

Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism (track the media’s coverage of the campaign)


Project Vote Smart

RealClearPolitics (source of aggregated election news and opinions, plus polling data)

Rock the Vote

The New York Times - The Learning Network

Washington Post - Post Politics

Youth Leadership Initiative Mock Election (A part of the University of Virginia Center for Politics)