UF Offers New Minor In American Indian and Indigenous Studies

Civics 101

Social studies curriculum is not included on the FCAT, the standardized test used to evaluate all primary and secondary school students, but some teachers think it should be.  “The readings for the FCAT use lessons from social studies courses to some extent but students should be responsible for knowing the basics, like the three forms of government,” said Jemeshia Lyons, a teacher at Gainesville’s Lincoln Middle School.

Last legislative session, former Senator Bob Graham and former Congressman Lou Frey joined together to promote the inclusion of a social studies curriculum on the FCAT.  Although the bill enjoyed broad bi-partisan support, it was not able to pass the legislature.  In Florida, the Sunshine State Standards suggests a civics curriculum, but whether it is taught in schools varies from county to county with some counties neglecting to teach civics education or social studies at any level.  

Senator Graham and staff at the Bob Graham Center for Public Service at the University of Florida believe that civic education should be a priority. “Teachers reach students on a level that no law or mandate can,” said Tony Rosenbaum, Graham Center director. “It’s important to invest in the education of our teachers because they give back to the community.”

In a collaborative effort with the College of Education, the Graham Center hosted a four-day professional development workshop for area middle school teachers, held August 6-9 in Gainesville.  The teachers participated in activities meant to enhance the social studies curriculum at their schools. 

Charmaine Taylor from Lincoln Middle School said she came to the workshop because she is “always looking for new ideas to motivate students to want to learn history and civics.”  Don Koma from Lake Weir Middle in Marion County agrees. “I am always looking for new material and methods to bring to my classroom.”

Speakers taught participants the We the People and Project Citizen curriculum provided by the Center for Civic Education. The We the People program teaches children about democracy, particularly the Constitution. By participating in specialized activities, Project Citizen teaches children they can influence government and have an impact on public policy. 

During the workshop, the teachers participated in the activities their students will be responsible for in the classroom. Taylor said she will definitely incorporate the mock congressional hearing simulation in her classroom.  “It’s one thing to see a lesson plan and another to actually participate in the activity that our students will participate in,” she said. “I used to have to tell my students about social studies but with this new material I will be able to show them.”

Robin Brandon from Green Cove Springs in Clay County is also eager to use what she learned in her classroom.  “When I get back to school I will be showing the other social studies teachers what I’ve learned in the workshop.”

Credits

Writer

Kimberly Martin

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