Summer Civic Learning Academy: Week 1

The 2024 Summer Civic Learning Academy (SCLA) hosted by the Center for Economic and Civic Learning at Ball State, as part of the CREATE project was completed by 13 teachers from six Muncie Community Schools (MCS) who teach various grade levels, with experience ranging from 3 years to over 10 years.

Evaluation data from the event shows that teachers’ knowledge on specific civics topics significantly improved post-assessment. Statistically significant increases were noted in areas such as US Government, Indiana History, US Constitution, Local History, US Bill of Rights, Media Literacy, and American History. There was a significant increase in the frequency with which teachers planned to implement civics-related activities. Teachers reported higher frequencies of teacher-led discussions, guest speakers, field trips, hands-on activities, and cultivating future citizenship post-program.

SCLA also led to significant increases in teachers’ confidence in teaching civics content. Areas of notable improvement included connecting civics to literacy instruction, discussing sensitive topics, disseminating civics content, and improving civics achievement for low-income and underrepresented students.

There were significant improvements in teachers’ perceptions of their civic content knowledge, disposition, agency, and access to curriculum and evidence-based strategies.

Teachers defined civics education broadly, encompassing government, geography, sociology, environmental and human interactions, civil rights, and community involvement.

Data from the SCLA shows hands-on experiences, field trips, community partnerships, educational videos, interactive games, and guest speakers to be effective in promoting civic dispositions among students.

Teachers requested more support in embedding civic education into their curriculum, information on student councils, local civic engagement opportunities, and access to resources for further training and community connections.

These insights highlight the positive impact of the Summer Civic Learning Academy in enhancing teachers’ knowledge, confidence, and frequency of civics education implementation, while also identifying areas for further support and resource provision.

CREATE is dedicated to giving history and civics-related material to teachers, with the Summer Civic Learning Academy being one of the biggest events of the year.


How Owney the Mail Pouch Pooch Helps Students Build Critical Inquiry Skills

Liz Osborn from Indiana University’s Center on Representative Government showed teachers how the story of Owney, the Mail Pouch Pooch who the Postal Service took in, provides a backdrop for hands-on explorations of primary sources. These explorations can cover geography, transportation, governmental responsibilities, good citizenship, and the industrial revolution. Giving students a literary-based example to build critical thinking skills as teachers build core content knowledge.

Dr. Osborn, Director of Education at the Center on Representative Government is part of the team that created the award-winning free civics interactives Engaging Congress, Freedom Summer 1964, CitizIN, and the Center’s latest project, Action Citizen. Dr. Osborn is responsible for the Center’s curriculum development. She was the creator of the Indiana Supreme Court’s nationally recognized educational outreach program “Courts in the Classroom.”

The Power of Restorative Practice

Sherry Wolfe discussed how restorative practices can create a safe and healthy learning environment for children affected by trauma, poverty, and other factors. Wolfe’s session highlighted the benefits of restorative practices in fostering positive relationships and promoting a supportive classroom atmosphere.

Teachers learned how to implement restorative practices in their classrooms to create and promote a safe environment for learning and growing. The first step to this is to understand that students come with other factors that make life and learning more difficult for them.
Writing Mini-Lessons for Increasing Student Voice

National Writing Project

Julie Fierce, a high school English and speech teacher at Delta High School, shared her expertise in writing mini-lessons that encourage students to use their voices to advocate for causes they believe in. Drawing from her experience with the Indiana Writing Project, Fierce provided practical lessons and activities that have successfully empowered 4th-8th grade students to find and use their voices.

Teachers explored five lessons that encourage students to use writing to advocate for causes they believe in. The lessons have been used in youth programs through the Indiana Writing Project with 4th-8th grade students, utilizing ideas from Writing for a Change by the National Writing Project and Reading, Writing, and Rising Up by Linda Christensen.

Elementary Activities with Original Sources

Spencer Ozbun, Vice President at The Remnant Trust, led a session, where teachers discovered how antiquarian books could bring history to life within their classrooms. This session covered activities such as historical book exploration, primary source analysis, book comparisons, and illustration analysis. Utilizing these sources can make history engaging and relevant for students.

Spencer leads the digital strategy and educational programs to expand the reach and engagement of the collection. With a background in nonprofit management, Spencer is dedicated to expanding the Trust’s educational purpose of providing awe-inspiring interactions with original sources to new generations. Spencer holds a master’s degree in emerging media design and development from Ball State University, bringing expertise in design thinking and human-centered design to drive innovation for the Trust in its effort to digitize its 1,600+ collection.


Current Events and Sensitive Subjects Roundtable

On Tuesday, June 18, 2024, Dr. David Roof, Director of the Center for Economic and Civic Learning at Ball State, facilitated a roundtable discussion on teaching current events and sensitive subjects. This session equipped educators with strategies to handle these topics respectfully and inclusively, ensuring an engaging and age-appropriate learning environment.

Educators were equipped with strategies and tools to teach current events and sensitive subjects in a manner that is age-appropriate, respectful, and inclusive. Participants engaged in a facilitated roundtable discussion, exploring best practices, potential challenges, and practical solutions for introducing and managing these issues in the classroom.

Making Sense of the World: Introducing News Literacy Skills

Robin Rockel, Community Engagement Manager for Indiana Public Broadcasting News, followed with a session on introducing news literacy skills to students. Rockel highlighted the importance of fact-checking, recognizing bias, and differentiating between news and opinion, providing educators with tools to integrate these crucial skills into their classrooms.

Students are often exposed to news topics at an early age. With this in mind, it’s never too soon to talk about the importance of skills like fact-checking with students. During this session, participants learned how to integrate activities in their classroom that touch on topics like bias, primary sources, misinformation, identifying advertisements and opinions, and journalism.
Sponge Neighborhoods

During this session, teachers learned a pedagogical activity for elementary and middle school students focused on civic engagement at the local level that re-envisions the building and social environment. In the activity, students would start with printed posterboards of a neighborhood close to their school. From there, they would learn how to investigate what is good and what needs to be improved in the neighborhood. Finally, just as the SCLA participants did, students would use sponges, pipe cleaners, ribbons, and other three-dimensional materials to overlay the map with their ideas for how to make the neighborhood better.

Elected Officials: Representative Sue Errington & Commissioner Sherry Riggin

Wednesday concluded with an engaging panel discussion featuring State Representative Sue Errington and County Commissioner Sherry Riggin. The panelists shared their experiences in public service, discussed their careers, and explored ways elected officials and educators can collaborate to enhance civics education.

Invited public officials talked about their experiences during their public service, including what prompted them to pursue public life, their careers, insights into the campaign process, and their workdays. The panel also discussed how elected officials and teachers can collaborate to improve civics education.

During the panel, these officials shared what a day in their lives would look like, from descriptions of daily meetings they have to some of their job responsibilities. They suggested activities for the classroom and potential field trips that would help to include students in the civic process. Furthermore, discussion about their personal experiences and stories provided insight into the process of becoming an elected official.


We the People: Civics and Literacy Skills Enhanced

Tim Kalgreen Director of Civic Education for the Indiana Bar Foundation delivered a professional development program for teachers on the We the People (WTP) program and this WTP helps teachers engage their students in deep learning about civics in the U.S. Constitution: its underpinnings, creation and ratification, structure and function of government, Bill of Rights protections, and citizenship. We the People also enhances literacy skills like reading, writing, speaking, and listening. The interdisciplinary program is available for elementary, middle, and high school classes to be a part of the holistic learning experience for the whole school.

Officer Friendly: How Community-Oriented Policing Benefits Youth

Officer Arin Phillips from the Muncie Police Department discussed the re-emergence of community-oriented policing. Phillips explained how the Officer Friendly program bridges the gap between police departments and communities, focusing on positive youth interactions and community engagement.

In the 1960s, the Officer Friendly program was rolled out to police departments nationwide to promote positive community relations with a specific focus on youth interactions. As crime rates increased and policing adopted more militant styles, communities became more disconnected. During this session, we examined what community-oriented policing is today, how it benefits youth, specific ways it has been implemented by the Muncie Police Department, and how MPD and MCS can best interact to support students.

Indiana Resources to Help Your Students Think Like Historians

Lexi Gribble, Manager of Education at the Indiana Historical Society, introduced various resources that allow students to explore Indiana’s history. Gribble’s interactive session encouraged critical thinking and analysis, teaching students to think like historians using maps, photographs, and other primary sources.

The Indiana Historical Society has a variety of resources that allow students to explore the history of Indiana. Students can learn more about the development of our state through maps, photographs, and so much more. This interactive session explored the ways that teachers can use items from the Indiana Historical Society’s collection to ask students to think critically and analyze the state where they live.

Community of Philosophical Inquiry

Dr. Sarah Vitale, Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Ball State, introduced the Community of Philosophical Inquiry (CPI) method used by the Philosophy for Children (P4C) movement. Vitale’s session demonstrated how CPI facilitates dialogue and enhances civics education, promoting philosophical thinking in the classroom.

“Community of Philosophical Inquiry” (CPI) is a method used by practitioners of the Philosophy for Children movement (P4C) to facilitate dialogue. During this session, participants learned about the value of P4C, especially as it applies to civics education, and the basics of a CPI.


Using the 4Es and the 3Ms to Promote Civics

Cornelius and Mary Dollison, founders of Motivate Our Minds, shared their model for promoting civics education through the 4Es and 3Ms. Their presentation emphasized the role of community interactions in shaping children’s understanding of their civic responsibilities and the importance of leading a civic-minded life.

Motivate Our Minds, understands that each interaction children have with individuals they meet while at school and in their neighborhood contributes to the pivotal moment when they understand the importance of community, the value of leading a civic-minded life, and the responsibility they have to help bring people together to further the good within the world. M.O.Ms. have always emphasized the concept of community, welcoming teachers, families, and neighbors to work together to grow the seed of civics.

Core Knowledge Language Arts (CKLA) and Civics Education

Dr. David Roof led a round table discussion on the Core Knowledge Language Arts (CKLA) curriculum and its approach to teaching civics education. Teachers explored practical strategies for implementing these lessons, ensuring students gain a comprehensive understanding of civic engagement, community membership, and good citizenship.

This session provided educators with a discussion of Core Knowledge of Language Arts (CKLA) and civics education. The session focused on the CKLA curriculum’s approach to teaching students about civic engagement, community membership, the purpose and importance of rules and laws, and the characteristics of good citizenship. Participants explored practical strategies for implementing these lessons in the classroom, ensuring students gain a comprehensive understanding of what it means to be an active and informed member of their community.

Sharing Resources for the Common Good

Dr. Annette Rose, an advocate for integrative teaching and learning, conducted a session on the roles and responsibilities toward public resources. Through a game-like format, Rose taught educators how to address the concept of common or public resources in the classroom, emphasizing the importance of civic duty and communal responsibility. This session was particularly adaptable for elementary classrooms.

We rely upon many material and information resources. Some are owned and sold by individuals or corporations (private property), and thus these resources are excludable because only paying customers have access to them. Other critical natural resources are non-excludable and referred to as common or public resources. In this session, we considered citizen roles and responsibilities toward public resources (aka common pool) in a game-like format that is adaptable to elementary classrooms.

Two Narratives: Muncie and Middletown

Dr. James Connolly, Director of the Center for Middletown Studies, examined two narratives of local history: the city’s social and economic evolution and its identity as “Middletown.” Connolly’s session explored the tensions between these narratives and their implications for Muncie’s social and civic challenges.

This session examined two narratives of local history, one based on the city’s social and economic evolution and one derived from research on Muncie as “Middletown”. The tensions between these two narratives can help define the social and civic challenges confronting the citizens of Muncie and other, similarly situated cities.

White River History Tour

Dr. James Connolly led a bus tour along Muncie’s White River, providing participants with a deeper understanding of the river’s historical significance to the local community.

Participants learned about the indigenous peoples who originally inhabited the area and their relationship with the White River.
Desegregation of Muncie: The tour highlighted key events and locations significant to the desegregation efforts in Muncie, showcasing the city’s journey toward equality and integration. Dr. Connolly discussed the industrial growth spurred by the Ball Brothers, whose glass manufacturing empire played a crucial role in Muncie’s development and the White River’s economic impact. The tour emphasized the river’s importance in shaping the community’s past and present, offering educators valuable insights to bring back to their classrooms.

The SCLA bus tour visited sites along Muncie’s White River helped participants gain a new understanding of those sites’ importance in local history.

Conclusion of Week-I

The first week of the Summer Civic Learning Academy was a success, offering a diverse array of sessions that enriched participants’ understanding of civic education. Educators left inspired and equipped with new strategies and resources to bring back to their classrooms, ready to make a positive impact on their students and communities.