Boys & Girls Club/LFI Civic Action Project Showcase A Great Success!


Last night here at UCF, the Florida Joint Center for Citizenship at the Lou Frey Institute, in collaboration with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Florida After School Zone and the Constitutional Rights Foundation, presented the 1st ever Civic Action Project showcase! It was, simply put, an amazing time that featured 4 groups of students talking with community members about issues that were important to them. Check out the agenda below:
CAP agenda

The presentations were powerful examples of how young people can engage with an issue and work to make a change in their communities, however one wishes to define that term ‘community’.

Each group of participants selected an issue and collaborated on researching, responding to, and presenting their issue, including proposed solutions. Check out the issues below. And keep in mind that all work around the issue was done BY THE STUDENTS. Facilitators played only a support role.


During our time together, students walked the audience through their topic. This included why they chose the topic, how the topic has impacted their lives and communities, a proposed solution or solutions, and research relating to both the topic and the solution. They followed their presentation with a question and answer session that demonstrated their grasp of the issue and their ability to engage in civil conversations. Hearing young middle school students talking about the ‘validity of the survey’s sample size’ was just amazing. Check out some images below of students engaging with the audience and responding to questions.


Students from Robinswood Middle School respond to a student question concerning their issue of cyberbullying


Students from Meadow Woods Middle School argue for equity in elective course offerings in Orange County Middle Schools


Students from Wolf Lake Middle School take questions from the audience, arguing that their research shows a potential positive impact from adding a homeroom, and that their survey shows a positive response!


Students from Hunter’s Creek powerfully and passionately argue for improved access to and information on Orange County and OCPS parks for disabled children.

One of the most important purposes of this event, and of the Constitutional Rights Foundation’s Civic Action Project is to help students understand that they CAN have an impact and that they CAN make a difference if only they can make their voice heard. How wonderful it was then that Associate Superintendent for School Choice Services, Dr. Christopher Bernier, attended the showcase and made a concerted effort to meet with each group of young and passionate people. Indeed, Dr. Bernier, who has some jurisdiction over at least a couple of the issues students raised at this event, promised the kids at Meadow Woods that he would look into the concerns that they raised. Below, he sits with students and discusses their issue. And he spent time doing the same with every group. We are grateful for his attendance and participation, because it ensured that the students felt their voices were being heard!

It was, wonderfully, a successful first year of this pilot program. We are eager to continue the conversation and the work with our friends at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Florida, and hopefully others, and see how we can make this even better and offer other students the opportunity to engage in the practice of civil conversations and lived civics.

One last thing. This effort could not have happened without the incredible and dedicated work of FJCC’s Action Civics Coordinator, Mr. Chris Spinale, and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Florida’s Director of Middle School Programs, Mr. Kelvin Curry. Their dedication to this program and to the kids is incredible. So too do we owe a debt of thanks to the facilitators from each school: Mr. Tony Johnson and Ms. Valerie Hobbs (Hunter’s Creek), Ms. Saceta Valentine and Mr. Lonnie Smith (Robinswood), Ms. Terri Rawls, Ms. Chandrieka Palmer and Mr. Marcus Palmer (Wolf Lake), and Mr. Sean B. Sookdeo and Mr. Bernard D. Mitchell, Jr. (Meadow Woods). And of course the young people themselves, who did all of the work and engaged in the practice of civic life with such passion and dedication.

The Florida Joint Center for Citizenship at the Lou Frey Institute has joined the Civics Renewal Network!


You may have noticed a new logo, similiar to what is above this post, appearing on the FJCC homepage. That is a sign of some exciting news! The Florida Joint Center for Citizenship is excited to announce that our parent organization, the Lou Frey Institute, was recently welcomed as a member of the Civics Renewal Network! 


The Civics Renewal Network is a resource-sharing network made up of civics education organizations from across the country. The Florida Joint Center for Citizenship at the Lou Frey Institute is currently in the process of curating some of our quality resources to share on the CRN website, and we look forward to sharing and posting the resources of other civics education folks across all of our platforms! We are excited to be a member of this consortium, and look forward to sharing with you some of the quality work being done across the country!

Student Civic Engagement Today


Today, around the country, students from Kindergarten through higher education are engaged in protests concerning gun violence. However one feels about the issues being debated, students assuming the rights and responsibilities of democratic citizenship  in their communities is something to celebrate. What students are doing today is consistent with our nation’s recent and not so recent  history of young people becoming engaged in their communities and learning the skills of citizenship and civic life.  Let’s consider just a few examples.

Running for Governor in Kansas

In Kansas, which has no age restriction on becoming governor, six teenagers are running for the position, and are running serious campaigns around issues. And their political persuasions run across the spectrum, a mix of conservatism, liberalism, and libertarianism.

Being engaged in the issues, aware of the rules and requirements for office, and taking action to pursue change are not inherently conservative or liberal civic virtues. These young people are engaged in civic action in their state because they saw a need and decided to try and fill it.

Birmingham Children’s March

The Birmingham Children’s March involved more than 1000 kids skipping classes all across Birmingham and marching in favor of civil rights, despite threats and violence perpetrated by people far older than them.  And they swore to continue doing it until change was on the horizon. They modeled for their fellow citizens the better angels of our nature and stood strong in the face of adult persecution and violation of their civil liberties.

Tinker v. Des Moines (1969)

‘Students do not shed their rights at the schoolhouse door.’ A legendary decision, arising as a result of 13 year olds protesting a war they saw as unjust. Indeed, the Tinker decision, and the actions of those students involved in that case, have in some ways inspired the movement today., with the Parkland students citing the Tinker case as something they learned about that helped show what can happen when students become civically engaged.

The Pro-Life/Pro-Choice Movements, Gun Rights, Student Busing, Black Lives Matter, and the ERA

Ongoing debates about controversial civic, political, and societal issues have always involved students, on both sides. Whether arguing and protesting over abortion, pointing out that there are is not uniformity among young people in the gun debate, wading knee deep into the disputes about busing students across northern cities like Boston to integrate schools, marching in the streets in defense of black lives and liberties, or taking sides for or against the Equal Rights Amendment, student civic activism is something that has always been an important pathway into civic life for young people. It is their first taste of the possibilities of civic life and fervor, and encouraging young people to engage with those possibilities can only strengthen the core of American democracy.




Resources for Teaching the State of the Union

It is at this point in the year when the President of the United States provides Congress with a mandatory State of the Union report. While it is now delivered as a speech, it was not always the case. In the long tradition of the State of the Union, delivering it as a speech to Congress is a relatively new development. 

So how do you use the State of the Union in your classrooms? This post will share some useful resources for teaching about, discussing, following, or using the State of the Union address as a teaching and learning tool.

Surveying State of the Union Addresses


This approach comes to us from Brown University’s Choices Program. In it, students will

  • Understand the constitutional basis and history of the State of the Union Address
  • Explore significant moments in twentieth century State of the Union Addresses and identify important historic themes
  • Collaborate with classmates to identify likely topics for the State of the Union Address
  • Assess the president’s State of the Union Address

This is an extended and engaging lesson, popularly used by social studies teachers of multiple grade levels across the country, and easily adaptable for your classroom.

State of the Union Bingo


This lesson is an older one, but still good, from the National Constitutional Center. It looks at the language of the State of the Union, and considers it as a means of engagement with constitutional duties and the broader public. Students will

  • Understand the Constitutional requirement for the State of the Union address
  • Examine the choices the President makes in the State of the Union Speech
  • Describe the events and topics addressed in the State of the Union speech.
  • Analyze the President’s legislative plan for the upcoming year

Flocabulary State of the Union


This is not a particularly deep lesson, but it does engage students with analyzing the language and content of the State of the Union using word clouds. What terms, concepts, ideas, language appears the most in the address? What does that mean for the goals and purposes of the president and his or her constitutional duties?

C-Span’s State of the Union Lesson


This lesson, from the good folks at C-Span, has students identify the constitutional requirement for the State of the Union address, examine the issues presented in State of the Union speeches, and analyze President Trump’s proposals for each issue. It has them breaking down the address comparing it to prior presidential addresses and State of the Union speeches.

Online Engagement With the New York Times


The New York Times is hosting an online ‘pre-discussion’ of the SOTU address that allows students to share their opinions and predictions, and then a post-address discussion. While you may not want to have your students as part of the conversation, the guiding questions and approach taken here may be something you want to duplicate in your classroom.

Bonus Opportunity: The 22×20 Campaign


The 22×20 Campaign (so named because there will be 22 million new voters by 2020) is hosting an online ‘viewing party’ and will have an active presence on social media. Students can take part in the conversation by using #22×20 online. This is a great opportunity to engage with other students all across the political spectrum during the address, and can be a fruitful source of ongoing discussion in your classrooms.

Upstanders and Bystanders: Investigating Modern Social Responsibility Using History

In 2015, Cherie Arnette (School District of Escambia County), Maureen Carter (School District of Palm Beach County), and Peggy Renihan (Florida Joint Center for Citizenship at the Lou Frey Institute) collaborated to create materials to support discussions around bystanders and upstanders.

We here at the FJCC, and the wonderful people who developed these resources, believe that these instructional resources are useful for a variety of courses at varying grade levels. We urge you to review the materials and make your own decisions on age and course appropriateness.

During the lesson, an incredibly rich and varied selection of primary source materials from the Holocaust and the Civil Rights Movement are used to examine social responsibility. Participants explore the reality that at different times we could all be upstanders, bystanders, collaborators, victims, and perpetrators depending on the situation.

You can access “Upstanders and Bystanders: Investigating Modern Social Responsibility Using History” using this link –

A Short Lesson on Hate

Talking About hate

Click on the link here, Talking about Hate, to access the lesson.

Friends, today’s post is brought to you by our program coordinator and all-around excellent teacher, Ms. Peggy Renihan.

During back to school, many teachers facilitate activities designed to create a safe learning environment. Recent current events may have students discussing sensitive issues. The activity provided in this post may, we hope, help facilitate conversations.

It is based on the an article from the Washington Post about teaching the issues related to the sometimes acrimonious public debates we face today . 
(A special Thank You to our own Val McVey for finding and sharing interesting and useful resources.)

There are some thought-provoking resources in the article that may be helpful. We reviewed most of the links and suggest that you view the videos and read the articles before sharing with students to ensure age-appropriateness.

Knowing that most people appreciate a readymade activity, we (Editor’s Note: we meaning Peggy!) modified the resources and information from the article to be ready for classroom use.Click on the link here, Talking about Hate, to access the lesson.

A New Approach for FJCC


As folks are likely aware at this point, funding for the Lou Frey Institute was vetoed by Governor Scott. The work of the Florida Joint Center for Citizenship falls under the umbrella of LFI, so obviously the loss of funding is, for us, significant. While we continue to work on grants and other opportunities to raise funds (and still seeking some sort of university or legislative solution), this sudden turn of events means some changes in our work.

To be clear, the Florida Joint Center for Citizenship at the Lou Frey Institute will continue to support teachers, schools, and districts to the best of our ability. Our curricular resources will not go away; indeed, we continue to refine and improve and expand what we have. The Florida Citizen website will be getting new materials later this year around action civics, high school government, and, perhaps, Florida’s new legislatively mandated Founders Month. Development and improvement on Civics360 continues; we have just added four new videos around benchmark 4.3 for example. We are working on an update to the Florida’s Civic Health website as well.

As needed and as possible, we will strive to meet face to face PD requests; however, we may not longer be able to respond in the affirmative to all requests, thanks to a vastly reduced travel budget. HOWEVER, we do have some exciting news that has arisen out of that unfortunate circumstance. The Florida Joint Center for Citizenship at the Lou Frey Institute is beginning the transition towards becoming an online professional development provider!

Currently, we are collaborating internally on developing a Canvas-based set of interactive modules (we hesitate to call it a course) targeting new teachers and what they need to know for teaching civics. We will be piloting this effort with a small number of districts for now; lessons learned from this will guide the next iteration and allow us to open it up to more folks. We also plan on offering additional data, content, and pedagogy oriented modules as we move forward. We have also just completed a new online narrated support PowerPoint around interpreting data that we will be posting for you within the next week!

We are incredibly excited by this new direction. Sometimes, what seems like disaster can simply be turned into a challenge. And that is true in this case. We have had to ask the question about how we can do more with even less, and we have high hopes and expectations that offering support online, with the same excellent staff you are used to, is a way to overcome that challenge. This Canvas-based approach will always involve the opportunity for questions, collaboration, and communication with the FJCC team.

Again, we will continue to support you to the best of our ability. The Florida Joint Center for Citizenship at the Lou Frey Institute is not going anywhere in the short term. We are simply going to follow a new path in supporting the work that wonderful teachers do in civic education.

We are always open to questions or suggestions, so please feel free to contact us at any time! 

Social Studies/School-Related Legislation to be aware of in Florida

Good morning friends. It is important, I think, for us to all be aware of legislation that can impact our beloved field and our profession. Of course we all know what is happening at the national level, but remember that ultimately, education is a state-level issue. And so, dear friends, what legislation is on the agenda in the current Florida Legislative Session that might be relevant for us? I have summarized significant or relevant pieces below, but remember that you can track all bills in our state legislature!


House Bill 67: Public School Recess
Requires that K-5 students get minimum number of minutes of free-play recess each week and minimum number of consecutive minutes each day.
Likely to pass
As the parent of an active third grader, I think this is a great and necessary idea. We know that recess has positive effects on student learning, and that it has seen some level of decline as schools have focused more on assessment. One drawback of this, however, is that this may impact the already limited time elementary schools devote to the social studies. It is, indeed, a difficult balance to strike. 

House Bill 131: Mandatory Retention
Removes requirement for mandatory retention of 3rd graders based on ELA Assessment
Currently in committee
This is unlikely to have a huge impact on social studies, but it could have a significant impact on elementary schools and promotion/retention policies and approaches. 

House Bill 303: Religious expression in public school
Prohibits discrimination against students, parents, or school personnel on basis of religious viewpoints or expression; requires districts to adopt limited public policy forum and deliver disclaimer at school events; requires DOE to develop and publish model policy and boards to adopt and implement it
Passed; moving on to governor

Senate Bill 392: High School Graduation Requirements
Adds .5 credit to social studies requirement in the form of a stand alone personal financial literacy course and money management. Reduces elective credits to 7.5.
Moving forward
The state of Florida has tried to implement some sort of personal financial literacy component for the past few years. This time, the bill seems more likely to pass. Obviously it increases social studies requirements for high school graduation, and will necessitate a re- balancing of teacher preps. Note that this is a stand alone course and NOT integrated into the traditional economics course. It also will have an impact on the arts and other electives, as students lose a half-credit there. 

House Bill 549: Student Assessment
Requires that DOE website publish any assessment administered or adopted during previous year. Expectation is every three years (see College Board as example)
Working through committees
This bill, if it passes, is likely to have a some level of financial impact on the state; currently, the DOE re-uses test items. If they are required to post older tests, they will then have to order the creation of even more items for a bank. 

Senate Bill 964: Education Accountability
Eliminates End of Course Assessments (including Civics and US History)
Passed Senate, on to House; likely outcome unknown
The House and Senate differ, generally, on the benefit of accountability measures. It should be noted that the passage of the Sandra Day O’Connor Civic Education Act and the existence of the civics EOCA provides social studies education with a much greater level of prominence and importance than it had prior to the act and the assessment. What happens to that if the assessment disappears? 

House Bill 989: Instructional Materials for K-12 Public Education
Revises terminology, standards, and review and adoption processes relating to K-12 instructional materials; PROVIDES FOR OBJECTION BY CERTAIN PERSONS TO ADOPTION OF INSTRUCTIONAL MATERIALS; provides right to appeal school district decisions; REQUIRES DISTRICT SCHOOL BOARDS TO PROVIDE CERTAIN PERSONS FULL ACCESS TO MATERIALS IN SCHOOL LIBRARIES
On track in House and Senate
We are currently in an adoption cycle, and texts and resources for social studies are likely to have been selected before the requirements of this bill are implemented (should it pass). However, our science friends are likely to be impacted by this, and note that it allows anyone, not just parents, to object to curricular resources being used in schools. We have seen, in our state, vigorous debate over instruction in certain controversial issues in social studies; this will probably increase the amount of those discussions. 

House Bill 1023: Required K-12 Instruction
Revises requirements for instruction relating to Africa to include specific content relating to enslavement of African peoples; revises requirements for curriculum of required character education programs to include history of Africa and African-Americans
Still in early stages
Obviously this would fall under the social studies bailiwick. 

Senate Bill 1710: Education
Designates September as Founder’s Month; revises duties of ‘Just Read, Florida’ office to include developing resources for elementary schools; requires postsecondary students to demonstrate civic literacy.
Moving forward
The expectations of this bill reflect what we already teach in our US history, civics, and government courses. I am, honestly, not quite clear on the part that requires a demonstration of civic literacy by ‘postsecondary students’. This could be some sort of graduation test around civics, or it could be a civic assessment targeting college students. We will have to wait and see. 

Remember, always, to make your voice heard. As social studies teachers and as civic education professionals, let’s be models for our students, no matter where you stand on these or other bills.

The National O’Connor Scholars Program

Good morning, friends of civics. We have come across an interesting opportunity and thought it might be of interest for your students!

iCivics and the Aspen Institute are cosponsoring the National O’Connor Scholars Program. 11th or 12th grade students interested in the work of the Supreme Court, the life of Justice O’Connor, and/or constitutional law and history; and a record of civic participation and leadership in school, community, and/or faith- based organizations are encouraged to apply.

Applications will be accepted from March 13 to April 3, or until 150 applications have come in—whichever is sooner.  Scholars will be announced on or before April 21.

Apply here

Learn more about the O’Connor Scholar Program.

Action Civics Survey

Heli Mishael, a student at Harvard’s Kennedy School, is doing some investigatory research around action civics and what teachers need to effectively implement an action civics approach in their classroom. This is definitely a question we here at FJCC would be interested in getting an answer to, so if you have some time, please take this survey!

Questions on this survey may be directed to Heli Mishael  Thanks for taking the survey and hopefully contributing to the body of knowledge about what might be needed!