Seventeen classes from around the country participated in the Project Citizen National Showcase, held July 31 at the Calabasas Library in Calabasas, California. The students tackled a wide range of public policy issues in their communities. Twelve portfolios were submitted in the traditional four-panel format. Five classes chose to submit their portfolios electronically. To view the rankings of the individual schools visit the Project Citizen website.Upper elementary, middle, and high school students tackled public policy problems within their community. Students chose issues they felt needed to be addressed and for which they could identify a viable solution. Showcase topics included “Reducing Air Pollution in a Large Urban City,” “Protecting the Pollinators: NO to Pesticides,” “Excessive Testing in Elementary School,” “Creating Sidewalks,” “Illegal Drugs in the Community Park,” and “Excessive Salt and Fructose Corn Syrup in School Lunches,” to name a few. Students developed both a public policy and an action plan to have their policies adopted. The portfolios were each evaluated by three judges who were experts in the fields of civic education or public policy.
Project Citizen is a hands-on, project-based curriculum to teach students about public policy. As a class, students investigate problems found in their local community. They then choose a problem to investigate further and develop a viable solution. There are four segments to the main project: (1) choosing and studying a problem, (2) investigating alternative policies, (3) creating a class public policy students believe will address the problem, and (4) developing an action plan to have the policy adopted. Throughout the project students meet to discuss the issues with members of the community, including the government officials responsible for dealing with the problem. The project is presented in two segments. The first is the portfolio board, which has a synopsis of the four parts, including pictures, diagrams, charts, etc. The second is a portfolio binder, where all the research and materials used to develop the summaries, policy, and other elements are documented. The binder also contains a reflection section where students discuss their reactions to the process, the experience of working with members of the community, and other thoughts. To learn more about the program, please visit the Project Citizen homepage or contact Maria Gallo at firstname.lastname@example.org.