Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum

Monthly Update sign up
Mailing List signup
Making Civics Real Workshop 6: Civic Engagement  
Home    |    Workshops 1-8    |    Tools for Teaching    |    Support Materials    |    Site Map

Workshop 6

Workshop Session
Lesson Plan
Teacher Perspectives
Student Perspectives
Essential Readings
Other Lessons
Lesson Plan: Teaching the Lesson: Overview, Goals, and Planning

This program shows a group of 11th- and 12th-grade students at Anoka High School in Anoka, Minnesota, a suburb of Minneapolis, engaging in a significant way to improve the quality of their community. All students in Anoka are required to participate in service learning in order to graduate from high school. Students begin with simple teacher-defined activities in the ninth grade and become progressively more involved and self-directed as they progress through their high school years. In this human geography class taught by Bill Mittlefehldt, a 30-year veteran of the classroom, students work in teams to define a project, choose and meet with a community partner who can help educate them about the seriousness of the issue and its current status, conduct further research on the identified problem, and present the problem and their proposed solutions first to their peers, and then to a special session of the Anoka City Council. This lesson satisfies state and national standards while helping deal simultaneously with the needs of today’s teens and today’s communities.

The goal of the human geography course is to help students understand how their region is changing historically, economically, and environmentally, and how these forces are shaping the future. In this applied civics unit, students are challenged to become involved in a project that can have a positive impact on their own communities. A major component of the lesson is a special session of the Anoka City Council, at which student teams present the issues they have researched and the solutions they are proposing. (See also, Teacher Perspectives section on Lesson Goal.)

The lesson follows units of study on a variety of themes in human geography, including where and why people live as they do in the world; human relationships in terms of space, population, and other features of human interaction with the physical features of their community; origins of students in the class; the impact of civilization and urban development on the community in which students live; and the concept that people have a responsibility as citizens to work for the common good, as opposed to being disengaged, disconnected, ungrounded learners who are inclined to be passive consumers rather than active, democratic citizens.

The lesson seen in this program takes place in week six of a nine-week Sequence of Learning Activities. Prior to the lesson seen in the video, students identified particular issues or problems they wished to address in the community and began working in small groups, applying the knowledge and skills gained from the course to identify and describe the concern they wish to address. They’ve also begun researching the identified problem and developing potential solutions, working with community partners on the research and proposed solutions, and identifying the most feasible solution based on their research and understanding of the economic and political realities of the community within which the problem exists.

Role of the Teacher
Bill Mittlefehldt has included this civic action project in his course for a dozen years. Over that period of time, he has developed relationships with many of the professionals in the city who are potential community partners for his students. Thus, they understand their role in the process as well as that of the student. He also has developed a relationship with the City Council (the current mayor is a former student), whose agreement to hear the students’ presentations at a special session is very important to the project because it truly gives students an opportunity to have an impact on important community issues. The attendance at the special session by numerous local dignitaries, the cablecasting of the session, and the newspaper coverage of the session are other areas of community participation that enhance the success of the project. These may not all happen during the first year such a project is undertaken. Teachers contemplating this lesson may find it helpful to form a parent committee to help with this phase of planning.

Overview, Goals, and Planning    |     Introduction    |     Activity 1
Activity 2     |     Activity 3     |     Activity 4     |     Activity 5     |     Scheduling


© Annenberg Foundation 2017. All rights reserved. Legal Policy