Fear and Excitement: Announcing a Civic Action Assignment

Laura Stott

History teacher Laura Stott from Madison Public Schools, Conn. is part of an innovation project to experiment with personalized learning throughout the year with Allison Zmuda.

I introduced the final product for our civic action plan today. This is their exam in which they demonstrate the work they’ve done during the trimester toward the civic action to impact the problem they believe is important.

I shared the whole exam document, but only highlighted two small sections to concentrate on. I really want to focus on the ultimate goal of taking the civic action.

As the words “don’t be overwhelmed” came out of my mouth I heard a student in my room go “too late.”

The Civic Action Assignment



Effective citizens are able to solve problems and they understand the role that government plays in doing so. During this course, you are going to address a problem or an issue by taking civic actions. This assignment asks you to select and justify a problem you will investigate throughout our course, and develop a plan for taking action.


Clearly explain your selected problem and your initial planned goal for improving this problem.


2-3 days


Your proposal should include the following:

  • Synopsis of the problem, issue or policy you are working on. (Be specific.)
  • How is the problem you selected important to you and other people in your community? (Explain the scope and intensity of the problem.)
  • Where is this problem best addressed?
    • Local Level: Board of Education, Board of Selectmen, DHHS Administration …
    • State Level: State Representative, State Senator, Governor …
    • Federal (national) Level: US Representative, US Senator, President …
    • * Explain why you believe that government level is the best match.
  • What is your goal? What would you like to see happen with this? What changes need to be made to benefit as many people as possible?
  • How might public policy play a role in achieving your goal? Enforcing an existing policy? Creating a new policy? Modifying an existing policy? Eliminating an existing policy? Or is this a goal that really does not relate to public policy?
  • We will have succeeded in our goal when… (Explain how you will know. Be specific.)
  • Develop a list of questions you believe that you must investigate to further understand the problem

21st Century Capacities:

Problem Identification: Students will be able to pose and pursue questions to better understand an issue and draw conclusions or seek patterns based on a synthesis of evidence.

Resources: Draw from our class discussions, your brainstorm work, and your Thinking it Through work. Clearly cite any outside resources from which you have gathered information.


Needs Improvement Meets Expectations Above and Beyond
You clarify the problem using specific details drawn from your research resources.  You prove that this problem is current and needs to be fixed soon (Problem Identification).
points _____/10
The scope and intensity of the problem is effectively communicated. The importance, of the problem selected, to the student as well as other community members is clearly evident.
points _____/10
You clearly explain, with specific details and reasons, where this problem is best addressed.  You cite specific elements of the level of government you select.
points _____/10
You have clearly stated your goal and desired result.  Needed changes and relevant public policy(ies) are identified.  You assert specific measures of success for your stated goal.
points _____/10
You develop and prioritize significant, relevant questions for investigation to further understand the problem (Problem Identification).
points _____/10
Your proposal uses persuasive language effectively – readers believe that this problem is worth time, attention and effort.
points _____/10
Total points _____ / 60

Panic and Progress!

After some initial panic and a student telling me “I didn’t think this was actually going to happen! I thought this was all theoretical!” the students really took off.  They seem genuinely excited and really working to solve problems and overcome obstacles.

So far I have groups playing with the idea of making a YouTube video, others planning to write or meet with the superintendent, and still others thinking about working with a local civic group.

Today I feel like I really made a difference! (Despite some initial attempts to run for the door and a student who asked me if it was too late to drop the class! Okay, the first one didn’t really happen. The second one did. He was kidding.  I think …)

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Adam Udell
Adam Udell
4 years ago

Did you assign this project to partners? Each student individually? Groups? You say time frame is 2-3 days…from beginning to end? Just to lay out a problem and a plan of action?