In January 2022, LWVMA in partnership with local Leagues, initiated an effort to recognize and celebrate the student civics projects that are now a required part of the Grade 8 and High School curriculum. Student-led Civics Projects became a formalized portion of the curriculum through enactment of S2631, An Act to promote and enhance civic engagement. The League of Women Voters of MA advocated for passage of this law through its partnership with the Massachusetts Civic Learning Coalition. This law states that schools are to make available student-led civics projects in Grade 8 and in at least one additional opportunity in Grades 9-12. Most schools are choosing to make this experience available in a required course so that it is accessible to all students. To find information about this League project see the Toolkit here.
On this page, we have created space to share League partnerships with schools. Our approach was to ask Leagues to individualize their support of school civics projects based on the readiness of each school to engage in this work. Due to the continued duration of COVID disruption, these projects have been delayed at many schools. Consequently, our Leagues have taken many different approaches in their work with schools. We are sharing the experience of these Leagues with pictures, video and a brief description.
Highlights of Partnerships
LWVMA and the Massachusetts Department of Elementry and Secondary Education (DESE) State-Wide Civics Project Showcase
LWVMA partnered with the MA Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) on it’s inaugural state-wide civics showcase — celebrating more than 200 student-led civics projects — at Clark University on June 2. League members participated as community advisors, tasked with visiting the students’ project booths and engaging in discussion. LWVMA Executive Director, Pattye Comfort, was part of a 5-person awards committee which was responsible for selecting the top project in each of these four categories: Research and Investigation; Planning for Impact; Taking Action and Reflection. Through its fundraising efforts for the showcase, LWVMA provided a celebration lunch for 203 students and 65 adult attendees (chaperones, parents and teachers). Here are a few of the day’s stats:
- 203 students representing 67 projects
- 20 districts (3 additional districts were ultimately unable to participate): Billerica, Cambridge, Cohasset, Dighton-Rehoboth, Fitchburg, Haverhill, Hudson, Medfield, Medway, Mendon-Upton, Monomoy, New Heights, North Andover, Pappas Rehabilitation Hospital for Children, Scituate, Somerset Berkley, Sudbury, Westford, Worcester
- 80 community advisors
- 9 public officials/legislators
- ~65 additional adult attendees, excluding DESE staff (chaperones, parents, pre-service teachers)
- 93% of students and 97.1% of community advisors agreed or strongly agreed the event was a valuable use of their time. 90% of students agreed or strongly agreed that they can make a difference in their community.
Check out the video below to see some of the projects and hear from students and community members about the day!
LWV Worcester Area Forest Grove Middle School Civics Education Showcase
Eighth graders become activists. The League of Women Voters Worcester Area partnered with Shawn Degnan, eighth grade Civics Education teacher at Worcester Public School’s Forest Grove Middle School. Mr. Degnan teaches four ten-week sessions of Civics Education with four classes each session.
On November 2, 2022, four classes presented their research findings including actions steps to ensure their community engagement. They presented to elected officials, school and city administrators and employees, League members, and interested friends.
Students uncovered interesting facts while researching their topics online and with conversations with School Committee members and City Councilors. One group also presented their findings to the full School Committee seeking support and implementation of their project.
Groups focused on community issues including Vote16, the overuse of plastics in the Worcester Public Schools, climate change and the pollution of the neighborhood lake, food insecurity, and traffic safety during school arrival and dismissal. Other groups demonstrated compassion for less fortunate community members and initiated sock, winter coat, and food drives.
Each group identified action steps, and, our hope is that they will continue their activism through high school and beyond. Mr. Degnan concluded, “the aim of the class and projects is to help students become more engaged and informed citizens and to ensure they understand and respect the processes of democracy.”
Read more here.
LWV Needham NHS Civics Showcase
The League of Women Voters of Needham and the Needham High School Social Studies Department co-sponsored Students Advocate for Change, the Needham High School Civics Showcase, on Saturday, June 11 at 2-4 PM at Powers Hall, Needham Town Hall. The Showcase featured 92 Needham High juniors in 47 groups who shared their research, materials, and positions in a science fair type setting. Over 80 attendees engaged the students about their issue areas.
LWV Cape Cod Area Celebrates Barnstable High School Civics Day
Barnstable High School organized their first Civics Day for the presentation of student-led civics projects on June 15. Students from 35 classes and 11 teachers presented their projects displayed throughout the school library from 8 AM to 2 PM. A ceremony was held from 10:30 to 11 to recognize the achievement of all the students and teachers who participated in these projects, and to feature the work of five students who spoke about their work. As one small part of that celebration, LWVCCA was invited to speak briefly and present certificates of achievement to these five students, and to be distributed later, classroom certificates for each teacher and the sections they taught. To read more, click here.
LWV Concord- Carlisle
On June 8, students in grade eight braved a windy day to showcase their civic action projects in tents outside the Concord Middle School. Their enthusiasm for their topic was abundantly clear in the quality of their display boards and the depth of their conversations with many visitors. All students in the grade completed civic action projects through a thorough process of research and advocacy. 65 of those students opted to extend their work by participating in the public showcase. A busy, festive celebration included district administrators, town leaders, League members, and parents who listened to students present their work and posed questions.
Most striking was the range of actions students took in order to advocate for their cause. For example, one student hosted a Friday film night at school to show movies with positive images of people of color; another group of eighth graders, who focused on women’s rights, put together a presentation for the school faculty; other students organized petition drives, wrote legislators, and conducted surveys. Visitors were quite impressed by the students’ range of topics, their articulate presentation, and their commitment to taking action.
Photo credit: Fred Burnham
League Members Attend Generation Citizen MA Civics Day, June 6 2022
On June 6 several League members attended the Generation Citizen Massachusetts Civics Day, organized for schools that are using the Generation Citizen curriculum model to conduct their student-led civics projects. Schools from more than a dozen communities attended with over 300 students. Our League members attended as some of the 100 Community Advisors who volunteered to offer students feedback about their projects as the students think about ways to influence progress in their communities on these important issues of student interest. Participation gave our League members an opportunity to connect with students and to think about supporting showcase civic events in our local communities. Below are pictures of some of the students and our League members who attended. Thanks to all who attended and especially to LWVMA President Elizabeth Foster-Nolan for participating.
Submitted by Karen Mazza