Welcome to CivicsEd, a provider of interactive civics seminars for children and adults.
Civics education is much more than conveying factual knowledge; teaching should foster critical thinking, ignite interest, and encourage the application of knowledge into action.
For this reason, all classes are taught in small seminars. The Socratic method is used to encourage questions, promote interactive learning, and foster independent analysis. Academic goals are for students to achieve a solid understanding of the subject matter while honing critical thinking and debating skills.
Seminar offerings include:
Students will learn about the role, importance, and function of U.S. government. We will begin by studying examples of different types of governments around the world. Students will examine the history of how and why the U.S. federal government was established, and learn the different jobs of the legislative, executive, and judicial branches. Students will learn about the system of checks and balances by studying examples from current events.
Students will learn about the Constitution of the United States including when and where it was established, why it was written, and how it set up our system of government. Students will examine specific sections of the Constitution and discuss how they are relevant today. The class will analyze the three branches of government and their interrelation as established in Articles I, II, and III. Students will learn about the powers of each of the three branches of government and the system of checks and balances. Students will learn about the amendment process, which will include a discussion of the Bill of Rights and the importance of these rights today.
Students will study the first ten amendments to the Constitution, the Bill of Rights. Students will learn why the addition of these amendments was controversial, and why they remain controversial today. Students will learn first-hand the difficulties in applying the Bill of Rights to real-life situations as we examine the role of the judicial branch in interpreting difficult cases.
Students will examine the five freedoms of the First Amendment. They will be challenged to define these freedoms. For example: What is speech? What is the press? What does it mean to separate church and state? Students will consider instances when these freedoms should be restricted. They will discuss the importance of these freedoms in a democracy as they compare the freedoms in the United States to those in other countries. Students will be introduced to the judicial process as they learn how the Supreme Court has interpreted the First Amendment. They will study several landmark and contemporary Supreme Court cases.
Students will learn how the judicial branch works in relation to the legislative and executive branch. They will learn the basics about how the Court operates today: how cases reach the Court, how cases are decided, and how they become the law of the land. We will discuss the landmark case, Marbury v. Madison, and the concept of judicial review. Students will also learn about other important Supreme Court cases, including Scott v. Sandford, Plessy v. Ferguson, and Brown v. Board of Education. Students will also discuss recent Supreme Court decisions and learn about our current Supreme Court justices.
Students will learn all about this often puzzling, mysterious, and frequently controversial topic. We will discuss when and how the electoral college was established, and the surprising election outcomes that sometimes result. We will critically examine both the advantages and disadvantages of this system, and then discuss some ideas for reform.
*Note: This is a one-day seminar.
Students will learn about the why the freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment are essential in a democracy. They will study the role of the First Amendment in the context of the Civil Rights Movement and women's suffrage. They will be challenged to put their knowledge into practice.
Students will learn the basic skills of effective argument and debate as they consider various issues: Should kids be allowed to vote? Should children’s video game use be restricted? Should people be allowed to use their phones when driving? Students will be challenged to come up with the best arguments for both sides of each issue. They will apply the basic principles of debate as they learn to argue with each other in a respectful manner.
- Recent Cases and Controversies of the U.S. Supreme Court
Students will analyze and discuss some of the Court’s recent cases and current controversies. The class will be taught as an interactive seminar to encourage critical thinking, discussion, and respectful debate. Specific issues that will be examined include affirmative action, search and seizure law, same-sex marriage, abortion, and judicial review. Due to the nature of the topics discussed, this class is for mature students only.
- Arguing Your Case: An Introduction to Trial Courts
Students will be introduced to the terminology, roles, and rules of the courtroom. This will include some of the basic rules of evidence, the burden of proof, and the differences between civil and criminal cases. Learning will be reinforced through observation and role-play. Students will demonstrate their understanding of by participating in scripted court cases.
Students will work together to prepare a case for trial where each student will play a role as either a plaintiff, witness, defendant, and/or attorney. Throughout the process, students will demonstrate and enhance their understanding of courtroom procedures, courtroom roles, and legal strategies.
*Note: This class has a prerequisite: Arguing Your Case: An Introduction to Trial Courts.
- Freedom of the Press: Reading and Understanding the News
Students will learn about the importance of a free press as one of our Constitutional protections and its role as a watchdog over government. Students will be challenged to read, analyze a recent news story, and discuss issues of reliability, bias, and opinion. Students will compare and contrast U.S. restrictions on the press with those in other countries.
- Current Events: Understanding, Discussion, and Debate
Students will be assigned to read two major newspapers each week and one major international new source (online). They will be asked to identify what they believe are three of the most important news stories each week. We will discuss the news story as a class, which may include a review of background information necessary to understand the story. The concept of a free press, media ethics, how media has changed with technology, and how to research material on the Internet will also be discussed.
- U.S. Citizenship: Requirements, Rights, and Responsibilities
Students will examine various issues concerning citizenship in an interactive seminar: How does one become a citizen? Is the naturalization process fair? What are the rights and responsibilities of citizenship? What are the current controversies concerning illegal immigration? What is the importance and meaning of good citizenship mean?
Unless otherwise noted, seminars are designed for ten-week sessions. All seminars may be lengthened for longer, more in-depth sessions as needed. To schedule a seminar in your home or school, please contact Leila Leoncavallo.