Teaching Current Events: Democracy and Civic Engagement

Democracies across the globe are increasingly fragile. Examine the health of democracy, voting and elections, and the pivotal role civic participation of young people plays.

Explore Additional Resources in the Democracy and Civic Engagement Collection

Teaching Idea
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Hardship and Hope: Teaching Amanda Gorman’s “New Day’s Lyric”

This Teaching Idea invites students to analyze Amanda Gorman’s poem “New Day’s Lyric” and create a class poem about hope and collective action during challenging times.

Teaching Idea
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Mob Violence, Human Behavior, and the Capitol Insurrection

This Teaching Idea on the Capitol insurrection invites students to reflect on how seemingly small choices made by individuals can contribute to larger acts of injustice and violence.

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Democracy & Civic Engagement

Teaching about the January 6 Insurrection and its Impact on U.S. Democracy

On January 6, 2021, an estimated 2,000 people stormed the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to disrupt the peaceful transfer of power. As we approach the 1-year anniversary of the insurrection, we continue to learn more about what happened that day through the congressional investigation and ongoing trials of insurrectionists. The January 6 insurrection remains important to understand and discuss, as well as the larger questions it raises about the state of U.S. democracy. A recent poll found that 52% of young people between 18 and 29 believe that either U.S. democracy is “in trouble” or “failed,” while only 7% agree that it is “healthy,” further highlighting the need to teach students about democratic institutions.

Teaching Idea
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Reflecting on Climate Change and Ecological Grief

Use this Teaching Idea to help students reflect on their emotional reactions to climate change, their connection to the natural world, and the power of collective action.

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Democracy & Civic Engagement

6 Indigenous-Led COP26 Events You Can Stream

The 26th U.N. Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) is currently taking place in Glasgow, Scotland where an international group of academics, policymakers, artists, youth activists, and other grassroots visionaries are meeting to contend with the many dire challenges and collaborative opportunities posed by the ongoing climate crisis. News from the convening-in-progress reveals that more than forty countries have pledged to shift away from using coal and nearly 100 nations have pledged to cut methane emissions substantially in an effort to slow global heating. Alongside these significant top-down decisions that will reshape policy around the globe, the conference also features a host of presentations that speak to the place-based knowledge, local efforts, and fundamental mindset shifts that must accompany policy change. This year, many of these events are being led by Indigenous people and/or underscore Indigenous ways of conceiving of the natural world and its relationship to humanity.

Teaching Idea
Democracy & Civic Engagement

What Does It Mean to Live with Social Media?

In this Teaching Idea, students sharpen their media literacy skills as they evaluate the impact of social media on their lives and question how we can manage social media’s harmful effects.

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Media Literacy

A New Type of Media Literacy

In a fast-moving information landscape that is being transformed by image manipulation tools and deep fakes, the work of helping students cultivate media literacy is an increasingly complex task. U.S. Media Literacy Week during the last week of October is a time dedicated to underscoring the idea that media literacy must be a central aim of education and urging teachers to implement relevant lesson plans that help students learn how to sift fact from fiction. Conceptualizing media literacy as exclusively focused on the facts appears to be giving way to a broader definition, however, as the debate over the nature and impact of social media platforms such as Facebook intensifies. Beyond the important question of how students discern whether the information they access is factual, a host of other concerning questions are emerging about how the very tools we use to access information may be unraveling our ability to know, think, and simply relate to others in the world—particularly for adolescents. As lawmakers attempt to hold tech leaders accountable through an ongoing series of congressional hearings, a network of former tech leaders has come together to help all of us—and particularly our young people—forge more healthy relationships with these platforms through behavior change.

Teaching Idea
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Voting Rights in the United States

In this Teaching Idea, students learn about the history of voting rights in the United States and consider how current voting laws in different states impact voters today.

Teaching Idea
Democracy & Civic Engagement

The Common Good in Times of Crisis

This Teaching Idea invites students to explore how their actions and the actions of their leaders can help promote the common good in a time of crisis.

 

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Democracy & Civic Engagement
Fostering Civil Discourse

Current Events in Your Classroom: Fostering Dialogue in Divisive Times

Learn tips, strategies, and tools you can use in your classroom to help engage students in productive and meaningful discussions about current world issues.

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Democracy & Civic Engagement

Haiti in Historical Context

This week, the world is watching a devastating humanitarian situation unfold in Haiti where a 7.2-magnitude earthquake struck the island and is thought to have killed at least 2,189 people, injured at least 12,000, and left tens of thousands homeless. This comes on the heels of the assassination of Haitian president Jovenel Moïse only a month ago which sparked considerable social unrest. In addition to these immense casualties and compounding traumas, the arrival of Tropical Storm Grace has complicated rescue efforts. Further, past political corruption and mishandling of relief funds by foreign NGOs have made many external actors reticent to issue monetary support, even in the face of widespread hunger and displacement. Despite these substantial barriers, a group of dedicated Haitians and Haitian Americans are rising to the challenge of delivering necessary aid to the Haitian people and inviting others to join them in their cause. As the news stories emerging from Haiti grow ever complex, a deeper exploration of the history of Haiti—including the resilience and resistance of its people—helps to illuminate how we got here and the broader significance of supporting Haitian-led relief efforts.

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Media Literacy

6 Resources for Teaching Current Events

With the 24-hour news cycles that exist today, educators are faced with a challenging range of important topics to potentially address in the classroom, but actually teaching current events is easier said than done. From world-changing humanitarian situations to smaller developments unfolding at the level of one’s community, wading into these waters can be complicated, particularly without the support of best practices. How do we cultivate safe and brave spaces for our students and ourselves as we navigate the many issues of the day? And what does it look like to do this skillfully amidst the escalating culture wars that polarize discussion and the challenge of media literacy in a “post-truth” world?

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Democracy & Civic Engagement

Trans Youth Transforming Schools and Beyond

As Pride Month draws to a close, educators and school leaders have an opportunity to think about how to support and ally with LGBTQIA+ students more effectively all year long. But we must not forget that LGBTQIA+ youth are also powerful agents of change who are actually leading the way in many key arenas. This year, we are seeing a number of transgender youth standing up for equity, inclusion, and justice in powerful ways within and beyond their own school communities. 

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Democracy & Civic Engagement

Teaching Current Events: Educator Guide

This guide offers tools and strategies to help teachers organize discussions on current events in their classrooms.

Teaching Idea
Democracy & Civic Engagement

How Can You Close the School Year? Six Ideas That Work for In-Person, Hybrid, and Remote Students

These six activities help students reflect on the past school year, celebrate their school community, and look ahead to what comes next.

Teaching Idea
Democracy & Civic Engagement
Race in US History

The Power of Representation: Patsy Takemoto Mink, Shirley Chisholm, and Kamala Harris

Use this Teaching Idea to help students learn about the groundbreaking careers of Patsy Takemoto Mink and Shirley Chisholm and to consider the significance of Vice President Kamala Harris’s election.

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Democracy & Civic Engagement

Making Space for Women's History

The value and relevance of women’s history was in the news in late December 2020 when we learned that a new bill passed, approving the development of what will be the first women’s history museum on the National Mall. The long process that led to this approval, including considerable controversy surrounding the penultimate bill, raises compelling questions about how women’s history is valued and understood, as well as the significance of spaces like museums and monuments in shaping public memory.

Teaching Idea
Race in US History
Democracy & Civic Engagement

What Happened During the Insurrection at the US Capitol and Why?

This Teaching Idea guides students to use an iceberg diagram to synthesize the events of January 6, 2021, and outline the complex array of causes at work.

Teaching Idea
Democracy & Civic Engagement
Race in US History

Responding to the Insurrection at the US Capitol

This Teaching Idea is designed to help guide an initial classroom reflection on the insurrection at the US Capitol that occurred on January 6, 2021.

Teaching Idea
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Responding to the 2020 US Presidential Election

This Teaching Idea contains guidance on how to discuss the election with your students and activities to help them process their responses, find accurate information, and consider the impact of the results.

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Democracy & Civic Engagement

How Can We Evaluate If an Election Is Free and Fair?

This Teaching Ideas uses our Free and Fair Elections Explainer to help students reflect on the importance of elections, define the phrase “free and fair elections,” and learn about electoral systems in their region.

Teaching Idea
Race in US History
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Understanding #TakeaKnee and Athlete Activism

Explore the origin and legacy of the Take A Knee protest in the NFL, the significance of the more recent athlete boycotts, and the long history of athletes protesting racial injustice in the United States.

Teaching Idea
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Back to School with Current Events

Use this Teaching Idea to review the events of the summer with your students, learn about how they're processing the news, and discuss what issues resonate most with them.

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Democracy & Civic Engagement

Fostering Civil Discourse: How Do We Talk About Issues That Matter?

The ideas and tools in this guide will help you prepare students to engage in reflective conversations on topics that matter, whether you are in a remote, hybrid, or in-person setting.

Teaching Idea
Race in US History
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Reflecting on George Floyd’s Death and Police Violence Towards Black Americans

This Teaching Idea is a guide for teachers to begin conversations with their students about George Floyd’s death and the events that surround it.

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Democracy & Civic Engagement

Student Journaling During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Journals provide students with space to process their thoughts, feelings, and uncertainties during this difficult time. Use the tips and writing prompts in this resource to help your students establish a practice of journaling.

Teaching Idea
Democracy & Civic Engagement

COVID-19: How Can We Make Choices That Promote The Common Good?

This Teaching Idea features Google Slides with activities that prompt students to reflect on the difficult ethical questions we’re all facing during the coronavirus crisis.

Teaching Idea
Democracy & Civic Engagement
Justice & Human Rights

The Equal Rights Amendment: A 97-Year Struggle

This teaching idea provides an overview of the ERA and a look at the history behind the struggle to ratify the amendment that would formally guarantee women equal rights to men under the US Constitution.

Teaching Idea
Democracy & Civic Engagement

How the World Votes: The Iowa Caucuses and Voter Representation

The Iowa caucuses are the first chance voters in the US have to cast a ballot in support of a presidential candidate. Help students understand how the caucuses work, discuss the advantages and disadvantages of voting in person, and explore the question of whether Iowa should be the first state to vote.

Teaching Idea
Media Literacy

Where Do We Get Our News and Why Does It Matter?

Explore media bias using recent news coverage of controversial events and help students think about what healthy news habits they want to adopt.

Teaching Idea
Democracy & Civic Engagement
Media Literacy

How to Read the News Like a Fact Checker: a Media Literacy Strategy

Reading “laterally” is a key media literacy strategy that helps students determine the quality of online sources. This Teaching Idea trains students to use this technique to evaluate the credibility of the news they encounter on social media feeds or elsewhere online.

Teaching Idea
Race in US History
Democracy & Civic Engagement
Justice & Human Rights

The Debate over Reparations for Racial Injustice

With reparations in the news, this Teaching Idea helps students define the term, learn what forms reparations can take, and consider what reparations should be offered for slavery and other racist policies.

Teaching Idea
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Young People Respond to Climate Change

Explore with your students why young people are calling for action against climate change and some of the strategies they can use to make a difference on this issue.

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Media Literacy

Partner Resource: Checkology

Our partners at the News Literacy Project developed the media literacy resource Checkology, a set of lessons designed to help students learn how to critically evaluate and interpret news sources.

Teaching Idea
Democracy & Civic Engagement

How the World Votes: India’s Election and Access to Polling Places

Explore ideas around access to voting by learning about India’s general election and the country’s commitment to ensuring that all voters are close to a polling station.

Teaching Idea
Race in US History
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Responding to #LivingWhileBlack

Help students develop a framework for analyzing and discussing the incidents of racial bias they’re seeing in the news and on social media.

Teaching Idea
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Youth Taking Charge! Placing Student Activism in Historical Context

Many students considered participating in the national school walkouts to protest gun violence following the Parkland, Florida school shooting. Use this teaching idea to explore the rich history of youth activism from the 1960s to present day. You'll prepare them to think critically as they examine current events through a historical lens and equip them with tools and strategies to engage in difficult conversations.

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