8_1 Fostering Civic Responsibility

Fostering Civic Responsibility
Through Service Learning

Constitutional Rights Foundation acknowledges the Department of Service Learning in the Corporation for National Service in gathering source materials used in the development of this article.

Today’s children must become tomorrow’s responsible citizens. The attitudes they develop will shape the quality of life for all of us. Civic responsibility—addressing social problems in an informed, committed, and positive manner—is not an intuitive process. Young people must learn how to participate in a democracy. They need to be able to understand their community and its institutions, to develop decision-making and evaluative skills, to learn the ins and outs of public policy, and to know the value of service. What does it take to foster these abilities? How can service learning play a role in the development of civic responsibility?

In 1993, Congress voted the National Community Service Trust Act into law, creating the Corporation for National Service. This legislation includes a working definition of service learning as a tool for civic education. According to the National Community Service Trust Act, service learning programs must be:

  • Conducted in the community and meet its needs;
  • Coordinated from an elementary or secondary school, an institution of higher learning, or a community-service program;
  • Integrated with student curriculum or with the educational component of the community service program; and
  • Structured to allow participants to reflect on the service experience.

Learn and Serve America, a program of the Corporation for National Service, has developed a set of skill-building objectives to address the definition of service as put forth by the National Community Service Trust Act. These objectives include getting things done, strengthening communities, and developing participation. In the words of Harris Wofford, Chief Executive Officer of the Corporation for National Service, “Service learning can crack the atom of civic power. . .”

Many educators believe that civic responsibility can best be developed when teachers work toward linking three components: community service, learning outcomes, and civic education. Quality service-learning exists only when all three come together:


Constitutional Rights Foundation, in conjunction with Close Up Foundation, has developed Active Citizenship Today (ACT). This service-learning program is designed to foster civic responsibility by teaching young people how to participate effectively in a democracy. ACT does this by linking an in-depth study of civics with active community involvement and service. Through their participation in ACT, students:

  • Learn about the people, processes, and the institutions most effective in improving community conditions.
  • Develop skills necessary to participate in policy making.
  • Foster attitudes about the value of lifelong service for the common good.

These approaches attempt to teach civic responsibility by forging strong links between classroom work, community service, and civic education.

NAEP: A Framework for Civic Education

In 1998, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) assessed the civics achievement of students at grades 4, 8, and 12. Guidelines for the assessment were established in the Civics Framework for the 1998 National Assessment of Educational Progress.

This framework focuses on interrelated components: knowledge, intellectual and participatory skills, and civic dispositions. Together, these components make up the essential elements of civic education in America.

What civic knowledge should students be able to demonstrate?

Students should be able to demonstrate civic knowledge in five fundamental areas:

  1. Civic life, politics, and government
  2. Foundations of the American political system
  3. How the government established by the Constitution represents the purposes, values, and principles of American democracy
  4. The relationship of the United States to other nations and to world affairs
  5. The roles of citizens in American democracy
  6. What civic skills should students be able to demonstrate?

Students should be able to demonstrate the skills that enable citizens to use their civic knowledge to respond to the challenges of life in a constitutional democracy. Intellectual skills help citizens identify, describe, explain, and analyze information and allow them to evaluate, take, and defend positions on public issues. Participatory skills enable citizens to monitor and influence civic life by working with others, expressing ideas, and managing conflict.

What are civic dispositions?

Civic dispositions are those ideals held by citizens, such as belief in the rights and responsibilities of individuals in society and in the advancement of the ideals of the government. These “dispositions” underlie participation in civic affairs, such as elections or community service and the assumption of personal, political, and economic responsibilities.

For more information about NAEP and civic assessment, visit their web site at nces.ed.gov/nations reportcard/site/home.asp

Defining Civic Responsibility

What is civic responsibility? Although no single definition exists, it is clear that civic responsibility is not merely a matter of voting or obeying the laws. Concepts of civic responsibility include “citizenship for democracy,” “participatory democracy,” and “social responsibility.” Below are summaries of competencies and skills that lead to the development of civic responsibility. These summaries are drawn from prominent organizations in the field. Each summary is supported by a model service activity designed to help students develop civic competencies and skills.

Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD)

The ASCD defines citizenship as a concern for the rights, responsibilities, and tasks associated with governing. It identifies citizenship competencies as an important component of civic responsibility. These competencies include acquiring and using information, assessing involvement, making decisions and judgments, communicating, cooperating, promoting interests, assigning meaning, and applying citizenship competencies to new situations.

ASCD lists respect, empathy, tolerance, trust, responsibility for oneself and others, and cooperation as traits important to democratic life. It also cites conflict resolution, open- minded listening, critical thinking, decision making, compromise, information gathering, and problem solving as important citizenship skills.

Service Activity: Students decide to host a community debate on gun control and the second amendment. They create flyers and press releases, invite community speakers, and prepare public service announcements for the local media. At the debate, speakers for and against gun control argue their positions. Students discuss gun control policy. As a follow-up, students invite peace officers, judges, lawyers, and public officials to discuss possible methods for influencing public policy.

Center for Democracy and Citizenship

The Center’s publication, By the People, compares three “understandings of citizenship”:

  • Civics. Focuses on government and the service it delivers, e.g., how a bill becomes a law, the branches of government, the role of elections, and legal rights. In this context, “citizenship means engaging in public work, and public work takes practice.”
  • Community member. Focuses on membership in a community in which the citizen has rights and responsibilities. Citizen ship education takes place in neighborhoods and volunteer groups and teaches values such as caring about others and appreciating diversity.
  • Civic producer. Here the focus is on the citizen as a producer of public things. This approach was most evident in such large-scale national service initiatives as the Civilian Conservation Corps of the 1930s.

Service Activity: By addressing neighborhood problems, young people can explore the structure and role of the governing body that most applies to their own lives—local government. Through interaction with local government and its policies, students learn how laws are made, how groups can influence public policy, and how individuals can make a difference.

Constitutional Rights Foundation (CRF)

In order to foster civic responsibility, students in Active Citizenship Today (developed by Constitutional Rights Foundation in conjunction with Close Up Foundation) go through five units of study and service learning. First, students examine their community’s resources and problems. Second, students choose a community problem they want to focus on. Third, students learn about policy, policymaking, and how policy affects their problem. Fourth, students examine options for working on a community problem. Finally, students take action—they apply what they have learned in previous units to design and implement a service-learning project.

Service Activity: Students in Jefferson County, Colorado, discovered that a busy residential street posed hazards because it didn’t have street lights. A survey showed that residents agreed on the need for lighting. Research at city hall revealed that the county did not have enough money to install them. Students persuaded a local contractor to put up half the money, got a vote of approval from the county government, then went door-to-door raising the other half of the money required to install the lights.

The Youth Development Institute

The Handbook of Positive Youth Outcomes, published by the Fund for the City of New York, Youth Development Institute (1997), defines civic competencies as a core of values. This core includes respect for civil and human rights for all and the recognition that one can further these rights for oneself and the community by participating in governmental and community processes. Among many competencies identified in the handbook, the following seem most relevant to service-learning:

  • government-related, e.g., actively participating in the political process, knowing how to interface with and access government systems;
  • participation, e.g., believing you can make a difference, defining issues and setting goals, understanding the values of a community;
  • advocacy, e.g., bringing groups of people together, setting realistic goals, appreciating and building on “small steps”; and
  • duties and responsibilities, e.g., understanding laws and codes of conduct and the consequences for failing to abide by them.

Service Activity: Seventh-grade students in Omaha, Nebraska decided to work on the problem of illiteracy. First, students invited experts on reading to their classroom. A reporter from a local newspaper talked about the link between literacy and information. A state senator answered questions about how government was addressing literacy. Next, students coordinated a book drive. The books were donated to homeless shelters and the local literacy council. Then, students organized a literacy mentoring program at the local elementary school. Finally, they developed a series of books on tape for distribution to elementary schools, a children’s hospital, and homeless shelters.

Essential Civic Competencies and Skills

The following typology of competencies and skills help promote civic responsibility: intellectual skills, participatory skills, research, and persuasion.

Intellectual skills

  • Gathering, interpreting, analyzing, summarizing, evaluating and presenting information; categorizing information; establishing cause and effect relationships;
  • Understanding issues, their history and contemporary relevance; identifying, describing, evaluating, and defending a position;
  • Identifying criteria for making judgments;
  • Assessing involvement: identifying implications; identifying rights and responsibilities;

Participatory skills

  • Solving problems and taking action;
  • Influencing policies; building coalitions, negotiating, compromising, and seeking consensus;
  • Making decisions: gathering information, identifying needs and resources; clarifying values;
  • Cooperative learning: listening to others; working with diversity in race, sex, culture, ethnicity, age, and ideology;


  • Understanding issues and making choices (e.g., obeying the law v. the right to dissent); understanding fundamental laws (e.g., rights and responsibilities); understanding the role of decision-making;
  • Tracking issues in the media; researching issues in the community; attending, reporting, and reflecting on meetings and hearings;
  • Using the media to gather and analyze information; acquiring information from groups and individuals;


  • Taking appropriate civic action;
  • Participating in classroom and school government; participating in hypothetical town meetings and hearings; writing letters to newspapers and members of government;
  • Identifying group and personal interests and goals; applying legal remedies to group and personal rights and interests;
  • Developing rationales to support one’s point of view.

Addressing Civic Skills and Competencies: A Case Study*

The Social Involvement Through Education & Service (SITES) program in North Olmstead High School, Ohio provides an example of how many civic competencies and skills can be developed under the umbrella of a single service-learning project. North Olmstead High School is one of 70 National Service-Learning Leader Schools.

North Olmstead’s SITES program annually enrolls 115 seniors who earn three credits—one each in English, social studies, and community service. Currently, the program is working with 35 community sites including educational, governmental, recreational, cultural, environmental, and health-related agencies. Students switch service assignments at the end of the first semester to diversify their experience.

Project Appalachia is one such community site. Focused around a five-day trip to southeastern Ohio, this service-learning program gives students the opportunity to provide services for economically depressed rural communities and provides an example of how SITES includes multiple competency and skill areas.

Intellectual skills

In preparation for their trip to Appalachia, students learn about poverty, discrimination, cultural diversity, and the role of community welfare in an interdisciplinary course on contemporary social issues. They explore the effects of active participation in the community’s social and civic systems in government classes. The English curriculum focuses on the nature of man and society with emphasis on the American experience. Students connect classroom study and service experience through reading selections, writing assignments, and oral presentations.

Participatory skills

Service activities include working at senior-citizen nutrition centers, Head Start and daycare centers, a regional food bank, school litter prevention and recycling programs, an adult literacy program, centers for the developmentally disabled, and a local family health center. Students also participate in home weatherization programs, senior home visits, and meals-on-wheels. Project Appalachia participants rotate service activities every day.


Students study the geography, history, economics, politics, and culture of the area before, during, and after the trip to Appalachia. As a result, the students begin to understand and empathize with the people of Appalachia.


SITES students have created widespread public interest in Project Appalachia. They have attracted broad media coverage and several rural school systems have begun service-learning initiatives based on their experience with the SITES program.

In conclusion, there are three major premises that can be built upon to educate for civic responsibility through service-learning.

[1] There is a wide variety of competencies and skills that can foster civic responsibility through service learning. Service-learning coordinators should use the information in this article to develop their own useable list of civic competencies and skills.

[2] Although learning outcomes vary widely in service-learning, they do not happen automatically. As in addressing standards, service-learning programs should be designed to include a desired list of learning outcomes.

[3] The scope and sequence of a school’s curriculum should include opportunities for students to apply the goals of active citizenship. Service-learning provides valuable opportunities to teach civic competencies and skills that students can use as active citizens in a democracy.

  * Additional service-learning projects that support civic skills and competencies can be found in Network's "Profiles" section.


Active Citizenship Today Projected Student Outcomes

To foster civic responsibility, Active Citizenship Today (developed by Close Up Foundation and Constitutional Rights Foundation) recognizes desired learning outcomes in three broad areas: knowledge, skills, and attitudes. Each outcome is supported by a series of specific abilities.

Knowledge Students will:

  • Recognize characteristics and actions of effective citizens.
  • Describe the community where they live.
  • Describe local problems and their connection to state and national issues.
  • Explain factors and institutions that influence public policy.
  • Know how individuals can address community problems.

Skills Students will:

  • Develop and use effective questions.
  • Acquire information from primary and secondary sources.
  • Evaluate information for objectivity, accuracy, and point of view.
  • Use information to help solve social problems.
  • Assess personal action.
  • Develop critical-thinking skills to make informed and responsible decisions.
  • Develop communication and persuasion skills.
  • Work cooperatively with others.

Attitudes Students will:

  • Recognize and respect human diversity.
  • Develop a sense of effectiveness in the role of community advocate.
  • Consider the balance between rights and responsibilities.
  • Foster the value of service and continued involvement in the community.

For more information about Active Citizenship Today, visit the CRF website at www.crf-usa.org or call (213) 487-5590.


Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. (1980). The Handbook of Basic Citizenship Competencies. Alexandria, VA: Author.

Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. (1998). Infobrief: Educating for Democratic Life. Issue 13. Alexandria, VA: Author.

Center for Democracy and Citizenship. (1998 draft). By the People: Citizenship and National Service. Harry C. Boyte (editor). Minneapolis, MN: Author.

Constitutional Rights Foundation. (1998). Active Citizenship Today Implementation Guide. Los Angeles, CA: Author.

Constitutional Rights Foundation. (1996). Civic Action Guide. Los Angeles, CA: Author.

National Assessment of Educational Progress. (1994). National Standards for Civics and Government.

Washington, DC: National Standards for Educational Statistics, Office of Educational Research and Improvement, U. S. Department of Education.

National Council for the Social Studies. (1994). Curriculum Standards for Social Studies. Washington, DC: Author.

Youth Development Institute. (1997). The Handbook of Positive Youth Outcomes. New York, NY: Fund for the City of New York.

Citizenship Education Curriculum Guides

Active Citizenship: Empowering America’s Youth Social Studies Curriculum for Grades 7–12 — developed by John Minkler. Bonner Center for Character Education and Citizenship, 5005 North Maple Avenue, M/S 202, Fresno, CA 93740-8025. Phone: (209) 278-0219; Fax: (209) 278-0404.

Active Citizenship Today Field Guide, Starter kit, Handbooks, and an Implementation Guide for middle- and high- school teachers. Close Up Foundation, 44 Canal Center Plaza Alexandria, VA 22314. Phone: (703) 706-3640; Fax: (703) 706-0001; and Constitutional Rights Foundation, 601 South Kingsley Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90005. Phone: (213) 487-5590; Fax: (213) 386-0459. Web site: www.crf-usa.org; e-mail: crf@crf-usa.org.

Building Citizens: A Critical Reflection and Discussion Guide for Community Service Participants Written and edited by Margo Shea and Kevin Mattson. A project of The Walt Whitman Center for the Culture and Politics of Democracy. Rutgers University, 89 George Street, New Brunswick, NJ 08901-1411. Phone: (732) 932-6861; Fax: (732) 932-1922.

CityWorks An interactive curriculum that infuses local government into standard government courses. Includes a research paper and Service Activity. Constitutional Rights Foundation, 601 South Kingsley Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90005. Phone: (213) 487-5590; Fax: (213) 386-0459; e-mail: crf@crf-usa.org.

CityYouth A multidisciplinary curriculum that develops citizenship and critical-thinking skills. Includes procedures for planning and implementing service activities. Constitutional Rights Foundation, 601 South Kingsley Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90005. Phone: (213) 487-5590; Fax: (213) 386-0459, e-mail: crf@crf-usa.org.

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Program Profiles

MADISON, WIS.—Over half of the 2,619 students enrolled at Malcolm Shabazz alternative high school participate in an initiative that interweaves academic learning with service in the school and community.

  • In English class, students learned sign language in order to convey stories and songs to hearing-impaired elementary school students.
  • Students in a Women’s Issues class learn about violence in adolescent relationships. Using this information, they conduct workshops on relationship violence and date rape for the entire school. Later, they integrate these topics into mentoring sessions with girls from a nearby middle school.
  • The study of literature describing domestic violence led English students to write poems on this issue. They then read the poems at a coffeehouse to raise funds for a center for young victims of family violence.
  • On field trips to Appalachia, the Mississippi Delta, and Native American reservations, Shabazz students gain in-depth knowledge of the history, culture, and lives of people while repairing the homes of senior citizens and working with Head Start classes.

LEWISTON, MAINE—Kids Involved Doing Service (KIDS) attempts to “move education beyond the classroom as students apply academic knowledge and skills to real community needs.” Nearby Bath, Maine is a typical KIDS community.

  • A student survey of the history of this shipbuilding community led seventh-graders to develop a brochure about Bath’s history. Students researched Bath’s past, “dug out” old pictures, wrote copy, and arranged to have the brochures printed and distributed throughout the community. The brochure has been translated into French to serve the local Quebequoise community.
  • A two-year partnership between eighth-grade KIDS, Bates College, and schools in Lewiston, Maine led to a research project about the city’s history and culture. The partnership produced a series of audio and videotape programs about the city’s heritage. The tapes were broadcast on local radio and television stations. Further research and a series of oral history interviews led to the production of a documentary film about Lewiston’s history.

TILLERY, N.C.—Student from the East Carolina University (ECU) School of Medicine conducted a health assessment in this small rural North Carolina community with a high percentage of elderly residents. These Learn and Serve America students found that many of Tillery’s citizens suffered poor health and had no access to medical treatment. As a result of their findings, the students formed a partnership with local government to establish a health clinic. This interdisciplinary group of health professional students provides clinical services and administers recreational programs to approximately 1500 Tillery residents. The project also enlisted the aid of community members who developed a health intervention team and built a walking trail for seniors and a basketball court for young people.

PHILADELPHIA, BOSTON, SAN FRANCISCO—Project SHINE (Students Helping in the Naturalization of Elders) Multi-cultural teams of college students assist refugees and elderly immigrants to prepare for U.S. citizenship. These students, participants in the Learn and Serve America program, tutor elders in English and help them prepare for the review conducted by the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service. They also help immigrants and refugees prepare for naturalization exams by teaching them American history and civics. Project SHINE has helped over 1400 older immigrants to prepare for American citizenship. The students have benefitted greatly, with 89 percent showing new knowledge about American immigration policy and 60 percent showing an increase in knowledge of United States history, the Constitution, and citizens’ rights.

BOONEVILLE, MISS.—This Learn and Serve America program involves all 375 middle-school students and their teachers in three environmentally-based service-learning activities each year. During the past seven years, students have developed a nature trail, created an outdoor classroom, and planted thousands of shrubs, flowers, and trees in the community. A classroom study of natural resources and recycling led students to ask why there was no city-sponsored program in Booneville. Student inquiries led to the initiation of a recycling program. Booneville students also played an important role in securing funding for a $6 million earth systems study and training center that provides satellite access to environmental, weather, and seismic data. The center also offers teacher training in environmental education.

SENECA, S.C.—Named for the feline mascot at Seneca High School, “Bobcats On Line” is a Learn and Serve America initiative that uses the Internet to expand civic education and community service. Classroom activities include Internet-based research activities in math, science, and other classes. Participating students have taken the initiative by introducing the Internet to their parents and the entire Seneca community. They have established a web site to serve both Seneca High and the community at large. Bobcats Online also offers technical support for the school computer system, provides research information and bookmarks for teachers and students unfamiliar with the World Wide Web, and helps support computer-based classroom presentations.


Service-Learning FAQs

The National Service Learning Clearinghouse has published a list of service-learning FAQs. This new feature can be accessed on the Internet at www.nicsl.coled.umn.edu. Scroll down the Clearinghouse home page until you reach “Recent Additions.” Answers to service-learning FAQs include resources for assessing student learning, discussions on character education, cooperative learning, and risk management. Subject area information explores AIDS/HIV, hunger and homelessness, and math and service-learning. Other questions lead to information about student leadership, rural applications, and teacher trainings. FAQs generally include a broad variety of resources and links to contact for additional information. To ask a question that is not included in the list, call 1-800-808-SERVE or send an e-mail to serve@tc.umn.edu.

SERVEnet is Looking for a Few Good Ambassadors

SERVEnet is looking for ambassadors to introduce SERVEnet services to non-profit organizations. SERVEnet is a project of Youth Service America, an alliance of organizations “committed to increasing the quantity and quality of opportunities for young Americans to serve locally, nationally, or globally. SERVEnet matches volunteers to service organizations that need help. SERVEnet Ambassadors include students, working professionals, and retired persons. Ambassadors range in age from 7 to 85. SERVEnet Ambassadors become a part of Youth Service America’s growing service corps, share ideas with other Ambassadors nationwide through a “members only” listserv, and qualify for a number of prizes and awards, including the prestigious President’s Student Service Award. Visit SERVEnet and Youth Service America at www.servenet.org to fill out an online application. Or, contact Jim Haefele at (202) 296- 2992 ext. 28, or e-mail him at jim@ysa.org.

Youth as Resources

Youth as Resources (YAR) is a community-based program that provides small grants to young people to design and carry out service projects that address social problems and contribute to significant community change. The Center for Youth as Resources was founded in 1995 and serves as Washington, D.C., headquarters for the YAR network. Support for Youth As Resources comes from national and community foundations, businesses, and federal funders who have enabled more than 200,000 young people to plan and implement thousands of volunteer projects. There are currently 68 YAR programs in the United States and in three foreign countries: Canada, New Zealand, and Poland. Non-profit organizations, schools and other entities can receive training from CYAR to start their own local board of youth and adults responsible for raising funds and awarding grants in their community. For information about Youth as Resources, visit their web site at http://www.yar.org or call them (202) 261-4131.

CityWorks: A Curriculum Model
for Teaching Local Government
Through Research and
Service Learning

by Marshall Croddy

Today’s U.S. government teachers face a dilemma. On one hand they are supposed to impart to their students the requisite knowledge and skills to be effective and responsible citizens. On the other hand, most government standards, texts and curriculum focus on national governmental structures, politics and issues. While it is important for students to have a thorough grounding in this subject matter to operate as national, and even global citizens, in truth, as adult citizens they are more likely to participate at the local level where they will confront a bewildering array of local governmental institutions and processes. Most teachers rarely have the opportunity to provide more than a cursory examination of local structures of government.

The reasons for this lack of opportunity are legion. The 14 to 16 instruction weeks in a standard government course give barely enough time to cover the text material. Standard government texts often cover state and local government last, just as the semester is winding down and the blitz of finals and administrative matters overwhelm the teacher. In addition, while national and state curriculum standards often address local government, they often do not emphasize it. And finally, many government teachers themselves admit that they don’t have a strong background in government at the local level and do not feel comfortable teaching it.

In 1996 the Surdna Foundation launched a national initiative to demonstrate whether service learning could be an effective method for improving student citizenship knowledge and skills. Constitutional Rights Foundation took the opportunity to develop and test a model for helping teachers more effectively teach local government at the high school level emphasizing student-directed learning. The following is a preliminary description of the results.

Design Considerations

To begin work on the project, we convened a series of focus groups to help guide the process. A teacher panel drew on government teachers who served a variety of student populations and locales including urban and suburban areas. A panel of community representatives included state, county and local government representatives, school officials, civic group members and those that work in the media.

Discussions with the teacher group focused on current impediments to teaching local government, course and classroom realities facing any proposed model, preferred methodologies and approaches and feedback on draft designs and lesson plans. This group also agreed to participate in a field test of materials.

Discussions with the community representative group focused on the need for better local government instruction, technical review, the provision of resources for student and teacher support, and feedback on draft design and lesson plans.

Out of this process, we developed a series of design considerations for CityWorks. This new resource must:

  • Follow major government text organization, including Magruder’s, the standard U.S. government text, and support national, state, and local frameworks and course outlines.
  • Be flexible to use and easily infusable into an existing course.
  • Require a reasonable amount of classroom time to complete.
  • Be motivating for students and teachers.
  • Be applicable to a variety of school settings.

In addition, teachers suggested that the materials contain a strong research component, be as student-directed as possible, and support the attainment of applicable standards.

The Model

CityWorks consists of six two-day classroom lessons on the institutions and issues of state and local government linked to the study of founding principles, federalism, the political process, legislation, the executive function, and the judiciary. Local issue areas covered include governance, the economy, environment, diversity and human relations, youth and education, recreation, and crime and safety. In conjunction with the classroom lessons, students explore their local community, identify community problems, examine public policies that address a given problem, and complete a project or volunteer experience relating to the problem. This serves as the basis of their research project.

The material components of the CityWorks field test version include:

  • A teacher handbook containing a rationale; teaching tips; step-by-step procedures for the lessons; and reproducible masters for the student materials.
  • Student classroom materials consisting of six editions of The Central Heights Bugle, a newspaper covering the events of a fictional town that implements a charter reform process, a local military base closing, a county election, an upsurge in hate crimes, an opportunity to apply for state-funded “Aid for Youth” dollars, a major multi-use land development, and a rash of auto thefts. In a series of activities and simulations, students take the roles of government officials and citizens in a charter referendum, a federal commission, a mock county election, a city council, an appointed mayor’s planning commission, and a municipal mock trial.
  • A CityWorks Handbook that guides students through researching a local problem and public policy options, conducting a service-learning project or volunteer experience, and writing a research paper documenting their work.

Preliminary Field Test Results

Eight teachers were selected for participation in the field test representing a range of Los Angeles Unified School District senior high schools and two out-of-state school districts. Teachers were provided with all necessary materials and CRF staff conducted extensive interviews as the program was implemented. Staff also conducted student interviews and administered student survey instruments at the conclusion of instruction. In addition, an evaluator retained by the Surdna Foundation conducted both teacher and student interviews.

Among the positive results of the field test were that both teachers and students rated the materials as motivating, challenging and valuable in learning about local government. In addition, according to self reports, the materials increased student interest and involvement in their own communities. Additional field tests involving other school districts are ongoing.

On the basis of the preliminary field test, the materials are currently undergoing revision for further testing and dissemination.

©2000, Constitutional Rights Foundation, 601 South Kingsley Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90005 (213) 487-5590  Fax (213) 386-0459   www.crf-usa.org


This issue of Service-Learning Network is made possible by a
generous grant from the Ford Foundation

Marjorie S. Steinberg, President; Haley J. Fromholz, Immediate Past-President; Todd Clark, Executive Director; Marshall Croddy, Director of Program and Materials Development; Kathleen Kirby, Senior Consultant; Charles Degelman, Editor; Julie Glaser, Program Manager; Andrew Costly, Production Manager.



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