Wisconsin Teacher Explains Benefits of Project Citizen Print E-mail

Heather Tomchek, a social studies teacher for the New Holstein, Wisconsin, School District, shared with us this testimonial about the effectiveness of Project Citizen and impact the program has had on her students. 

I believe Project Citizen supports all the other initiatives in education. It asks kids to pick a problem in society, research it, problem solve a variety of solutions, analyze current laws and future projections and make quality recommendations to the community and appropriate legislative leaders. It is a project that students do for the community and it helps the community turn young people into active citizens. It teaches them about government and how to work the within the system of democracy.

It encompasses most of the ideas embedded in the 21st Century Skills. It neatly supports the English Language Arts Common Core Standards. It is the quintessential essence of the College, Career and Civic Life (C3) Framework for Social Studies. And it is the new theory of learning.

  • Twenty-first Century Skills want reading, writing and arithmetic to be the main focus while teaching life and career skills, critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity, while using information, media and technology skills. This is what happens daily in a Project Citizen classroom.
  • The Common Core states “Students will be challenged and asked questions that push them to refer back to what they’ve read. This stresses critical-thinking, problem-solving, and analytical skills that are required for success in college, career, and life.” This is exactly what happens during Project Citizen classes.
  • The C3 Framework states, “Our democratic republic will not sustain unless students are aware of their changing cultural and physical environments; know the past; read, write and think deeply; and act in ways that promote the common good.” Project Citizen not only stresses this point, but the major lesson encompassed in Project Citizen is this underlying viewpoint. 
  • In the book, Awakening the Sleeping Giant: Helping Teachers Develop as Leaders, it suggests that the “old theory” of learning is to “Build and strengthen bonds through reward and practice” and the new theory is that students should be learning by, “Constructing their own meaning by understanding their own thinking and using prior knowledge.” It also states the new theory of teaching should be for students to ask questions and find solutions. This also clearly happens in every Project Citizen classroom.

There is no silver bullet to creating deeper thinkers who care about and value community and learning. Project Citizen should be taught in every school around the nation. It could be used to keep our schools strong and our nation functioning. Students leave Project Citizen with a better understanding of what government is and how it works. This project can save the world. One project at a time.