Lessons 1 through 5
These core lessons provide students with key content and skills they need to choose an issue and begin taking civic actions.
Lesson 1: A Different Kind of Government Course introduces students to the Civic Action Project (CAP) as a practicum for their government course. To help students understand CAP’s rationale, they first discuss why government is a required course and then brainstorm knowledge, skills, attitudes, and actions of effective, productive citizens.
Lesson 2: Introduction to Public Policy introduces the link between policy and First, students read and discuss a short article defining policy. Then they discuss policy and its connection to problems. Next, in small groups, they do a newspaper search to find examples of public policy.
Lesson 3: Problems, Policy, and Civic Actions gives students further background in problems, policy, and civic action to prepare them for CAP. Students analyze problems in terms of causes and effects. Next, they explore how policy can be linked to problems. Finally, they list possible civic actions that can be taken when working on a problem. At the end of Lesson 3, the CAP Proposal from the Planner is assigned. Students will propose an issue they want to work on and convince their teacher that this issue is worthy of a CAP project. This launches the project-based learning component of CAP.
Lesson 4: Introducing Policy Analysis helps students develop a deeper understanding of public policy and the interaction between government and citizens in making policy. They look at case studies and are introduced to policy analysis.
Lesson 5: Policymaking in the Three Branches of Government introduces students to executive, legislative, and judicial policymaking and to policy evaluation. First, students discuss how policy can be made by each of the branches. Then they read about and discuss how the Chicago City Council passed an ordinance to suppress gang activity and how each branch of government was involved in the policy.
Option A (Policy Analysis): Students are introduced to GRADE, a policy-analysis rubric and apply it to the gang ordinance.
Option B (Civil Conversation): Students use the civil conversation strategy to analyze the Chicago gang ordinance.
Lessons 6 through 15
These supplemental lessons provide additional skill-building and U.S. government content as students continue their projects.
Lesson 6: Analyzing Anti-Gang Policies provides students with practice in analyzing policy. First, as a whole group, they evaluate an anti-gang policy using GRADE. Then in small groups, they are given policies that address gang violence and they evaluate each.
Lesson 7: Policymaking at the Local Level gets students to examine an instance of policymaking at a school board, one of the most common institutions at the local level. First, students read about and discuss a common local (and national) problem, the dropout rate. Then they role play subcommittees of a hypothetical school board, examine documents about the dropout problem, and craft a policy to address the dropout problem. Finally, they exchange policies with other groups and evaluate one another’s policies using the GRADE rubric.
Lesson 8: Law & Policy informs students about how existing law can influence public policy and policymaking. First, students read about and discuss how existing law can influence public policy.Then in small groups, they role play members of a public policy law firm and decide whether a policy of evicting renters violates existing law and whether a new law is needed to protect renters.
Lesson 9: Persuading introduces students to the art of persuasion. First, they read about and discuss the three types of persuasion: logos, ethos, and pathos. Then students prepare two-minute persuasive talks on why the issue that they have chosen to address in CAP is important. Finally, in pairs, students present and critique one another’s talks.
Lesson 10: Building Constituencies introduces students to the importance of gaining support to impact public policies. First, students complete a brief reading about the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Next, they examine documents created during the boycott and identify the civic actions taken to help build constituencies. Finally, in small groups, students brainstorm how they can get support for their CAP issue.
Lesson 11: Setting the Public Agenda introduces students to the public agenda and its importance to policy. First, students read about and discuss the public agenda and ways that citizens can influence it. Then in small groups, students are given different situations and they develop strategic plans for getting their issues or solutions to issues on the public agenda.
Lesson 12: Using the Media helps students learn about the importance of the media in setting the public agenda. First, they read about and discuss how the media help set the public agenda and how citizens can influence the media and even create their own media to help change the public agenda. Then they develop a plan to do one action to use or affect the media. Finally, they begin to implement their plan. As homework, they complete their action.
Lesson 13: Persuading Policymakers informs students that legislative and executive bodies often hold public hearing and how students can make effective presentations at these hearings. First, students read about public hearings and techniques for making presentations at these hearings. Then students role play a city council and people appearing before it attempting to persuade policymakers on hypothetical issues.
Lesson 14: Creating Change Through the Electoral Process focuses on electoral politics and how it deeply influences policymaking. First, students read about and discuss the role that electoral politics plays in policymaking. Then in small groups, students role play campaign workers and create strategies to attract young people to participate in an election campaign.
Lesson 15: Civic Action Survey provides students with an opportunity to discuss and examine the importance of surveys to measure public opinion about their CAP problem or issue. First, students will form pairs to take turns conducting and responding to a sample survey. Next students will learn about the types of questions that should be included in a survey. Finally students will convene in their civic action groups to brainstorm three different types of questions as the basis for their own civic action survey.
Introduce Students to the Link Between Economics and Public Policy
In this lesson, students first discuss making decisions in terms of trade-offs and opportunity costs. Then, students read and discuss a short article on doing cost-benefit analyses, using the minimum wage as a case study. In small groups, students conduct their own cost-benefit analysis of policy proposals that addresses local issues. More. . .