Twenty-five middle school teachers and six school directors in Santiago, Chile participated in a Project Citizen professional development workshop organized by Center’s Civitas International Programs colleagues in Chile and funded through a new grant from the U.S. Embassy. Dr. Diane Palmer led the four-session workshop in August 2015 for teachers and school directors from Peñalolén and Puente Alto, two communities of Santiago.
The teachers will implement the Chilean adaptation of the Project Citizen curricular program with 400 seventh grade students this fall. The students will work collaboratively to (1) identify public policy problems in their community, (2) gather and evaluate information about the problems, (3) examine and evaluate alternative solutions, (4) select and develop public policy proposals to address the problems, and (5) develop action plans to bring their proposed solutions to authorities with the power to implement them. After completing their policy projects, the participants will present their projects to their fellow classmates, schools, and communities. The teachers and students will be supported throughout this process by Fundación Hacer Chile, a local non-profit organization, and two Chilean civic education experts, Abraham Magendzo and Mario Gonzalez.
The objective of the pilot program in Penalolen and Puente Alto is to develop young people’s understanding of civic responsibility and how they can contribute to solving social problems. “A country of citizens unaware of their civic responsibilities will not develop the social cohesion and civic empathy that is needed to address the major problems of the country, such as development, education, and an end to poverty,” said Hacer Chile coordinator Cristian Keupuchur Espinoza.
Carolina Vega, head of the pedagogical unit at Maipo School who participated in the workshop, noted that this is an interesting program with a challenging methodology that supports participatory learning among students. “It is positive to note that you propose to students that they evaluate their concerns and needs, and from those, generate new knowledge,” she stated.
Project Citizen is a civic education curricular program developed by the Center for Civic Education and adapted by the Center’s partner organizations in 75 countries. It has been recognized as a model program that equips students with the knowledge, skills, and dispositions required for competent and responsible participation in the political life of their communities. Through Project Citizen, young people—from middle school students to young adults—learn how to monitor and influence public policy.