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LWVMA Announces New School Civics Celebration Project

We would like to invite and encourage local League participation in the newly created LWVMA School Civics Celebration Project. In the fall of 2020, we formed the LWVMA Civic Education Committee to develop a proposal to replace the existing annual student video contest.  The committee, led by Karen Mazza, LWVMA representative to the Massachusetts Civic Learning Coalition, was formed to develop a proposal that would focus on celebrating the student-led civics projects that are now required of students from Grades 8 through 12. Since these student-led civics projects require a deeper level of civic engagement, it seemed a natural fit for the League to shift its focus away from the annual video contest and toward these school-based projects. The committee’s proposal has been approved for implementation by the LWVMA Board of Directors and this memo serves as an introduction to the project.  

Click here to register for the Feb. 16th informational session on this new League project.

Rationale:

LWVMA advocated through our Legislative Action Committee for the enactment of S2631, An Act to promote and enhance civic engagement.  This law created the school requirement that students from Grade 8 through Grade 12 participate in two student-led civics projects as part of their curriculum experience.  Since LWVMA advocated for this legislation and since we continue to support its implementation through our participation in the Massachusetts Civic Learning Coalition, our League leadership recognized that we could continue to celebrate student civic engagement in a more meaningful way by partnering with and supporting schools in their implementation of these required projects.

 

Additionally, by potentially involving our 47 Leagues across the state, we have the capacity to recognize a wider range of students who represent diverse backgrounds and cultural perspectives and this will enable the League to put into action its stated goals around Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI).  

 

A third value of taking this direction, is that it would help this new civics law receive better implementation support and traction if teachers, administrators and students know that the community is enthusiastic about the importance of these projects and that we want to hear and amplify the civic voices of youth. The requirement to implement these projects was expected in 2021, but with the impact of the pandemic on schools, it has gotten off to a slow start.  Our community support can be an asset and motivator for schools.

Process:
The LWVMA Civic Education Committee consists of 15 members, representing 14 different local Leagues ranging from the Berkshires to Martha’s Vineyard, including the urban areas of Salem and Boston. Together they have prepared the Celebration Project.

 

In addition to the six committee meetings that were held from September through December, Karen sought input from the leadership of the Massachusetts Civic Learning Coalition to explore a potential collaboration with the MCLC and/or the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education on any of their efforts to support schools in implementing these projects and recognizing student achievement. That inquiry was well received, and a partnership has been formed to develop a state-wide showcase of students’ work.

 

The Proposal:

The core element of the plan is a state-wide effort through our 47 Leagues to celebrate and recognize the student-led civics projects completed at schools that each of the Leagues work with.  Two strategies for celebrations are proposed, but variations on those strategies can be developed by local Leagues in collaboration with the schools in their communities.

 

There is an important distinction to remember in what we are proposing. Our proposal focuses on celebrating the student-led projects that the students and schools initiate.  We are not proposing a curriculum or a project for students to do with the League that we are pushing into the schools. We are not giving them something extra to do.  We are celebrating their student-led projects which are embedded in the curriculum that they are studying in school. It isn’t student-led if we do the proposing and we come up with the topics.  Some Leagues do have projects in which they invite students to participate and that can still be done. 

 

Beyond this local level outreach to schools, we also propose a project at the state level that students may participate in on a voluntary basis. The complete details of the proposal are described in the documentOverview of School Civic Celebration Project.

 

LWVMA Support for Local Leagues Implementing this Project:

To assist Leagues in the local implementation of this project we have created a toolkit of materials that are available on the LWVMA website.  We are also establishing a League Civics Education Support Network that will maintain Zoom sessions and materials to assist local Leagues.

Please read:

Closing:

We encourage every local League to participate in this project.  Partnering with schools to celebrate student civic work will give a good boost of support to civic education, help amplify the voices of youth, and establish a vital and visible League partnership with schools and young people. We ask that you work with your local League Board and membership to identify one or two people who would be willing to serve as the point people for your local League’s participation in this project. Please send their names to Taylor Grenga (tgrenga@lwvma.org).  Please feel free to contact either of us or Karen Mazza at the following email addresses:

 

Appreciation:

 Thank you to the committee members who volunteered their time and valuable input: 

 

Member

Local League

Bonnie Glass

Sudbury

Catherine Dowd

Needham

Deborah Etzel

Plymouth

Hannah Kimberly

LWVMA Board, Cape Ann

Joan Blatte

Sharon-Stoughton

Jacinda Barbehenn

Bedford

Kenneth Armstead

Martha’s Vineyard

Lori Marenda

Salem

Lucy Costa

Wellesley

Mary Sterling

Concord

Palma McLaughlin

Boston

Ramelle Pulitzer

Berkshires

Sahana Purohit

Acton

Susan Frey

Concord-Carlisle

Karen Mazza

Cape Cod Area, Chair

Patty Comfort

Executive Director, LWVMA

Elizabeth Foster-Nolan

LWVMA, President