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Guide to Contextual Learning Projects

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Environmental literacy
Media literacy
Health literacy
Economic literacy
Civic literacy
Computer Technology
Data Analysis
Writing Skills
Creative and Critical Thinking

Civic Literacy

Civic awareness refers to the foundation that makes people active participants in the fabric of their community and beyond. What makes a person decide to participate in elections, participate in community planning and decision-making, invest in the community, volunteer in the community and feel connected to the community?

One of the essential positive developmental steps for youth is establishing strong connections with their communities and the wider world. Youth connect with their communities in many roles student, neighborhood resident, sports participant, arts participant, volunteer, worker/entrepreneur, voter or soon-to-be voter, and perhaps as participant in town meetings, neighborhood groups and other community forums.

A combination of formal and informal learning supports this growth. Formal learning supplies the concepts that underlie civic participation: understanding of democracy, voting and elections, the structure of local, state and federal government, the US Constitution, the history of democracy and civic participation.

Informal learning supplies the experiences that reinforce a desire to connect with the community and contribute to the community.

Early experiences like elementary school field trips to local businesses, organizations, parks and historic sites show students how others invest in the community and contribute to the fabric of the community.

Students can gain civic awareness and gain experience in civic engagement through contextual learning projects and work experiences that immerse them in projects and issues in their communities. Examples include:

  • Organizing a school-wide interdisciplinary Memorial Day celebration, which includes extensive reading, writing, artwork, interviewing local veterans and hosting a veterans breakfast;
  • Studying issues affecting veterans and participating in service projects in support of veterans organizations;
  • Working on energy conservation and weatherization projects;
  • Working with a local advocacy group to restore a dam on a local river;
  • Helping to promote farmers markets;
  • Organizing food drives and clothing drives;
  • Creating public information campaigns on themes of community health, anti-bullying or other topics;
  • Studying local and national elections and sharing information with the school community;
  • Conducting surveys about local issues;
  • Working in internships with elected officials, city and town departments, advocacy organizations and other organizations involved in civic and community action.