Teaching Civic Responsibility and Engagement in Early Childhood Education Programs
The recent unimaginable attack on the Capitol in Washington, DC have sparked two questions as an educator: Do families today truly understand or discuss civic responsibility and engagement with their children? How can early childhood programs introduce the concept of civic responsibility and engagement to young children?
There are numerous definitions of civic responsibility. For our purposes, civic responsibility means "active participation in the public life of a community in an informed, committed, and constructive manner, with a focus on the common good " (Dictionary.com). While teachers and families engage daily in numerous activities with children that support the concept of civic involvement, do children make the connection of their actions to civic responsibility and engagement?
How might early childhood education programs partner with families to create civic-rich environments that ensure understanding and emphasize the importance of civic responsibility and engagement? Below are six suggestions to support such partnerships:
1. Share with families your goal to introduce civic responsibility and engagement learning in the curriculum. Create a survey to secure families' suggestions for learning activities and events.
2. Create a Civic Engagement Committee and invite teachers and families to join. Members will work together to define the purpose and goals for teaching civic responsibility and engagement and determine how to best integrate the concept into the curriculum. This committee could also review and distribute a list of helpful resources for families and staff on the subject.
3. Pilot the civic responsibility and engagement programming by creating a three-month calendar of ideas, events, and other activities.
4. Host a Civic Responsibility and Engagement drop-in at the center for families and teachers to secure information to assist with civic learning and teaching and share their thoughts. If feasible, facilitate a panel discussion. Include families with different cultural backgrounds to participate on the panel.
5. Host a Civic Engagement and Community Fair. Invite representatives from local organizations involved in civic engagement and community building to talk with children and families about the importance of civic engagement for their community.
6. Create a short one-page evaluation for families and teachers to provide feedback to ensure success for children, families, and the program.
Examples of children’s literature to support civic understanding for preschoolers:
· A Is for Activist by Innosanto Nagara
· D Is for Democracy: A Citizen's Alphabet by Elissa D. Grodin
· Duck for President by Doreen Cronin
· Grace for President by Kelly S. DiPucchio
· Her Right Foot by Dave Eggers
· Say Something by Peter H. Reynolds
by Dot Hill, Early Childhood Educator, MOJO Education