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Civics Education

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High school student aids teachers in curriculum writing.
2018 MA Civics Education Institute

Civic Engagement, service-learning and other forms of community-based learning offer a means to engage diverse learners in authentic work that profoundly motivates because it matters in the larger world. Emerging America Director, Rich Cairn, has been a national leader in this field since the 1980s. 

Massachusetts, as part of reform that builds civic education into the curriculum each year from Kindergarten through high school, passed a law in 2018 to require that each student have opportunities to participate in civic engagement projects in grade 8 and in high school. 

The MA Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) published a Civics Project Guidebook: Guidance to Support Implementation of Chapter 296 of the Acts of 2018, an Act to promote and enhance civic engagement.  Link to the law here. To learn more about the law and the Massachusetts Civic Learning Coalition that promoted its passage, click here

Emerging America offers resources to teachers for developing Civics lessons, planning courses that pair content knowledge with inquiry skills and practices that are fundamental to citizenship, and shaping community engagement projects for maximum educational value. For current Emerging America courses and workshops click here

Accessing Civics with ALL Learners

More than 500 teachers have completed Emerging America's graduate level Accessing Inquiry workshops. In 2020, Emerging America will launch a new program–Accessing Civic Engagement–to support full participation of all learners in Civic Engagement projects. 

Online Civics Resources:

  • Click here for the extensive K-12 Social Studies and Civics resource site developed by Emerging America in 2018 for  the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), and now maintained by the Tisch Center for Civic Life at Tufts University. 
  •  Local History Projects offer an opportunity to pursue civic engagement by researching issues of historic and contemporary interest to students’ own community. Projects can allow students to try out, sharpen, and show off skills that tap and extend conventional classroom skills. Learn from Emerging America’s decades of direct experience leading civic engagement projects in its Windows on History program.
  • library of Teaching Resources: for support in developing Civics lessons, use the check boxes and search window to select grade level, time period, subject, and key words for primary source sets and sample lesson plans.
  • The blog and History eNews offer frequent updates on Civic Engagement policy, programs, and resources. 


Library of Congress TPS Civics Apps

Library of Congress Teaching with Primary Sources consortium members developed apps on civics education, linked at the website of Barat’s Citizen U, and listed below:

The Barat Education Foundation

Citizen U is a multidisciplinary, inquiry-based civics curriculum using primary sources for elementary, middle, and high school students to foster civic knowledge, skills, and dispositions.

Bean Creative

Case Maker features twenty pre-made civics challenges that teachers can share with their 6th-8th-grade students, or customize and annotate specifically for their needs.


DBQuest introduces students to major questions in civics and history using a Big Question as guiding light for deep examination of three selected primary sources from the Library.

Indiana University CORG

Engaging Congress is a fun, interactive game that uses primary sources to explore the basic tenets of representative government and the challenges they face in contemporary society.

Muzzy Lane Software


Kid Citizen features episodes in which children interactively explore Congress and civic engagement through historical primary sources, connecting what they find with their daily lives.

George Mason University Eagle Eye Citizen
"logo for Eagle Eye Citizen"

Eagle Eye Citizen is a digital resource that helps middle and high school students think critically about Congress, civic participation, and American history using primary sources from the Library.

Upcoming Workshops

Social Studies and Humanities pose distinct challenges for struggling learners. Extensive discipline-specific vocabulary, difficult informational texts –includi…
This course introduces exemplars of best practice pedagogy for English Learners in History and Social Studies classrooms. It demonstrates dual-language-learner-…
What is fascism? Where did it come from? How does it impact human rights? How did ideology shape the Spanish Civil War (the setting for the Ernest Hemingway nov…