Project Citizen

Overview

Project Citizen provides a practical first-hand approach to learning about our complex system of government and how to monitor and influence it.  Through our Curriculum, students will work together to research their community, to discover problems and then identify solutions in the form of policy that require government involvement.  Students also have the opportunity to display their research and policy suggestions through Showcases, in which students present their research and policy solutions to their classroom and/or community.  Showcases are also held at the state and national levels, where classes have the opportunity to participate and share their work with other classes from across their state or nation. To learn more about Project Citizen and Professional Development opportunities, we invite you to explore the website and contact ellen.barber.morse@gmail.com to learn more or get involved.

Project Citizen Research Program

Program

Project Citizen is an interdisciplinary curricular program for middle, secondary, and post-secondary students, youth organizations, and adult groups that promote competent and responsible participation in local and state government. The program helps participants learn how to monitor and influence public policy. In the process, they develop support for democratic values and principles, tolerance, and feelings of political efficacy.

Goals of the Program

To develop in students active citizenship and governance by

  • Developing an Understanding of the Importance of Citizen Participation
  • Providing the Necessary Knowledge and Skills for Effective Citizenship for all
  • Providing Practical Experience Designed to Foster a Sense of Competence and Efficacy

Rationale of Project Citizen

The Project Citizen curriculum provides a practical, first-hand approach to learning about our complex system of government and how to monitor and influence it. Students will work together to conduct research in their community to discover problems that they think their governments are not handling at all or not handling well. Through this curricula students will 

  • Learn how to Monitor and Influence Policy
  • Learn the Policy Making Process
  • Develop Concrete Skills, Effective and Creative Communication Skills, and the Confidence Necessary to Exercise their Rights and Responsibilities

Content

The Project Citizen Process

Students will follow a six-step process that will enable them to identify and study one significant problem, recommend a solution in the form of a public policy proposal, and present their research and proposal in the form of a portfolio and public hearing.

Step 1-Identifying Problems

In this step, students will identify a number of problems in their community or state that they think should be dealt with by the government or by both government and civil society acting cooperatively. Students will also start researching the problems they have identified and which governmental agencies at the local, state, or national levels might be responsible for dealing with those problems.

Step 2-Selecting a Problem(s)

In this step, students will use the research collected in step one to select a problem to focus on in their Project Citizen project.

Step 3- Researching the problem

In this step, students will gather additional information on the problem chosen in the previous step. The students will use a variety of resources including internet, printed material, and individuals with special knowledge related to the problem.

Step 4-Develop a portfolio to present your research

In this step, students will conduct the remainder of their research and start to create the four-part portfolio (culminating activity) that explains their project. The portfolio contains two basic elements: a visual display such as graphs and pictures and supporting documentation such as essays and research.

Step 5- Presenting your Portfolio in a Simulated Public Hearing

In this step, students should prepare to present their work in a simulated public hearing. This is an opportunity for students to display their knowledge of their chosen issue and the public policymaking process. These hearings can be done in the classroom, the school, school district, or any policy-making body such as the city council or state legislative committee.

Step 6- Reflection

In this step, students will have the opportunity to reflect on their journey through the Project Citizen process.

Portfolios

A portfolio is a way for students to organize and display their research for their chosen issue(s). The portfolio could be created in a physical or electronic display that will then be presented by students in a simulated public hearing. The presentation is often the most memorable and empowering part of a student’s Project Citizen experience. 

The portfolio and binder are displayed at showcases at the school, district, state, or national levels. Evaluators review each portion of the portfolio and documentation binder using the Guidelines for Portfolio Evaluation and the Portfolio Rating Sheet. For more detailed instructions on holding a portfolio showcase, please review the Guidelines for a Showcase Event. To see examples of physical and electronic portfolios click here.

To learn more about portfolios and showcases, visit our Showcases page.

Simulated Public Hearing

The purpose of the simulated hearing (the oral presentation component) is to teach students to present and defend reasoned opinions related to influencing public policy decision-making in their communities. For the simulated hearing, students or youth organization members are subdivided into four groups, one group for each section of the portfolio. Each group has the following primary responsibility:

  • Portfolio Group One: Explaining the problem
  • Portfolio Group Two: Examining alternative policies
  • Portfolio Group Three: Proposing a public policy
  • Portfolio Group Four: Developing an action plan

Each group makes a prepared four-minute presentation. The group then responds for six minutes to follow-up questions posed by members of the evaluator panel. Each of the four groups addresses the panel for a total of ten minutes. At the conclusion of each presentation, the panel members should provide constructive feedback.
To conduct a showcase in your school, city, or state contact your state coordinator, ellen.barber.morse@gmail.com

Alternate Sites

Outside the traditional classroom, Project Citizen is used by after school programs, youth organizations, home school consortiums, and the Juvenile Justice system. Project Citizen is also used in post-secondary classrooms, such as in community college and university courses, and with adult groups, such as Families in Schools. Project Citizen students also work on projects together using distance learning tools. For more information on using Project Citizen outside of the traditional K-12 classroom, contact the Center at projectcitizen@civiced.org.