Thursday, June 02, 2011

The Civic Action Project

This looks intriguing, so check it out if you're a US Government teacher or principal of a high school – from Jonathan Estrin, President of the Constitutional Rights Foundation (


The Constitutional Rights Foundation is a nonpartisan nonprofit that has worked in civic education for 49 years.  30,000 teachers nationwide receive and use our publications with their classes.  Over 1 million students are impacted annually by our programs and materials.


We have developed and deployed an innovative online Civic Action Project that radically changes the prospects for wide scale civic engagement by young people. The Civic Action Project (CAP) encourages civic engagement by making it a "lab section" to high school US Government classes, which are a required subject in most states. 


CAP has been backed so far by $1M from the Annenberg Foundation and has been field tested last year in five metropolitan areas - Philadelphia, Chicago, Denver, Las Vegas and Los Angeles. It works extraordinarily well.


This is different than volunteerism. CAP is civics-based service learning and teaches students how to try to solve a problem in their community or school by understanding how policy (setting and enforcing) affects the things they truly care about, and most importantly how they can try to create change by interacting with and influencing policy makers.  It is a dramatic experience of empowerment.


The process involves students choosing a problem to work on, something they care about in their community or school. The CAP website teaches them how to research the problem, how to find out where and by who policy is set or enforced.  Then it gives them a tool kit to help them make their voices and opinions heard and known.  Their attempts to create change aren't always successful, but the 'win' is in learning what and active, engaged citizen should do in a democracy – participate, work on the things they care about, and try to make government responsive.


The goal is to make CAP the default way to teach US Government and put it into every high school in America.  Just as one dramatic example of how it has affected a school….


At Bell Gardens High School in Montebello California, where our CAP program was being tested by one teacher, the Assistant Principal made it the default way that US Government would be taught by every teacher in that school and he made doing a CAP project a requirement for every graduating senior.  Then he convened community groups to whom the students presented their projects.


This is one of those potential game changers in the field of education and civic engagement. 


We would welcome more participants in the CAP community.


Interested Principals and Teachers can look at the website  


Most questions will be answered by the FAQs at


The Executive Summary of the Field Test is at


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