The portions of the Project Citizen text that are presented below provide an introduction to the types of activities that will engage students as they participate in the program. Because Project Citizen is unlike programs that are unit and lesson-based, it is difficult to understand the full scope and sequence of the curriculum without viewing it in its entirety. Project Citizen uses a process approach for teaching young people how to monitor and influence public policy in their communities. To reap the greatest benefit from the instructional program the class must complete every step of the process.Teacher's Guide
In the United States a public policy is an agreed upon way that our federal, state, or local government fulfills its responsibilities, such as protecting the rights of individuals and promoting the welfare of all the people. Some public policies are written into laws by legislatures. Other policies are contained in rules and regulations created by executive branches of government, the branches responsible for carrying out and enforcing laws.
The following are examples of public policies and the governmental agencies responsible for carrying them out.
School districts are responsible for making policies regarding student behavior and discipline. Teachers and school administrators enforce these policies. State legislatures are responsible for making laws that place speed limits on drivers. Police officers enforce these laws. City governments often adopt policies that prohibit people from operating liquor stores near public schools. City inspectors and zoning departments enforce these policies.
When people become aware of problems in their communities, they often want government to develop and carry out policies to deal with those problems. These may be problems for which there are
existing policies or laws that do not work well,
existing policies or laws that are not being enforced,
no policies or laws.
As a citizen of the United States you have a right to say what you think government should do about problems in your community. You also have a right to say what you think about problems in your state, the nation, and about international problems. You have the right to try to influence the decisions people in your government make about all of those problems.
To be able to participate effectively, however, citizens need to know which levels of government and which governmental agencies are responsible for changing, enforcing, or developing a specific public policy. For example, state legislatures may direct agencies to enact policies resulting from federal legislation. Or, local governments may create policies in order to carry out responsibilities assigned to them through laws enacted at the state or federal level. Additionally, as part of the process of developing and implementing policy, governmental agencies must determine if the new policy conflicts with existing legislation or policy.
This project is intended to help you learn how to express your opinions, how to decide which level of government and which agency is most appropriate for dealing with the problem you identify, and how to influence policy decisions at that level of government. It calls for you to work cooperatively with others in your class and, with the help of your teacher and adult volunteers, to accomplish the following tasks:
Your class will use the materials you have gathered and written as you accomplish these tasks to develop a class portfolio. The portfolio is an organized collection of information which makes up your class plan related to a public policy issue that you and your class have decided to study. The class portfolio will contain such things as written statements, charts, graphs, photographs, and original art work. These materials will portray
what you have learned about the problem you have selected;
what you have learned about alternative solutions to the problem;
what public policy you have selected or developed to deal with the problem;
the plan of action you have developed to use in attempting to get your government to adopt your policy.
This instructional guide will provide step-by-step instructions for identifying and studying a public policy problem and for developing your class portfolio.
Your class is encouraged to present its portfolio orally to other classes in your school or to community groups. Your class may enter its portfolio in a competition with other classes who have also developed portfolios.
The knowledge you gain in studying a problem in your community is valuable. It should be shared with others for their benefit. Sharing your knowledge and understanding also will benefit you. It will help you develop skills important for participation in a self-governing society. See Step V: Presenting Your Portfoliofor more details on making oral presentations.
Step I: Identifying Public Policy
Purpose of Step I
In this step you will read a short list of problems found in many communities in the United States. These represent problems people often think should be dealt with by their government. After reading the list, you will
The purpose of this step is for you to share what you, your classmates, and others already know about problems in your community. This should help your class gain enough information to make an intelligent choice of one specific problem to study.
A. Class Discussion
Sharing what you know about problems in your community
To complete this activity, your entire class should
Common problems in communities
Communities across the United States have many problems in common. Some problems may be more serious in some communities than in others. People often think that government should be responsible for adopting policies to help solve these problems.
Problems in schools
Problems regarding young people
Problems involving community standards
Problems involving basic liberties
Problems concerning the environment
B. Small Group Activity
Work with one or two other students to discuss the problem you have been assigned. Then write your answers to the questions on the Problem Identification and Analysis Form.
If your class wishes to investigate a problem not listed, it may do so.
C. Homework Assignments
Finding out more about problems in your community
The three assignments which follow should help you learn more about problems in your community and the public policies designed to deal with them. Use the forms provided to record the information you gather. Save all the information you collect during these assignments. You may want to include some of it in your class portfolio.
Step III: Gathering Information on the Problem Your Class Will Study
Purpose of Step III
Now that your class has selected a problem, you must decide where to get additional information. You will find that some sources of information will be better than others. For example, if you have selected an environmental problem, you will find certain individuals and groups know more about that problem than others.
A. Class Activity
Identifying sources of information
The following is a list of some sources of information you might explore. Read and discuss the list. Decide which sources to contact. Then divide intoresearch teams.
Each research team should gather information from one of the sources listed or others your class identifies. Forms to use in gathering and recording information are included. Refer to the appendices for examples of sources of information and how to contact them.
Adult volunteers may assist your team in gathering information, but they should not do your work for you. Save all the information you gather for use in the development of the class portfolio.
You might wish to invite people to visit your class to share what they know about the problem you are studying.
Examples of sources of information
B.Guidelines for Obtaining and Documenting Information
Most people working in the places where you can find information are very busy people. It is important to follow the suggestions given below to avoid having the class place too much of a burden on the offices and individuals being asked for information.
C. Homework Assignment
Researching the problem in your community
After deciding what sources of information to use, your class should be divided into research teams. Each team should be responsible for gathering information from a different source.
If you are the person in your research team who is assigned to contact one of the sources of information described above, begin by introducing yourself. Then inform the person of your purpose or why you are contacting him or her. Use the following guidelines for introducing yourself by letter or in person. (Use the Information from Letters or Interviews Documentation Form to record the answers you receive.)
Step V: Presenting Your Portfolio
Purpose of Step V
When your class portfolio is completed, you can present your project before an audience. Your presentation can be made to a three- or four-person panel representing your school and community. These panel members will "judge" your presentation based on the same criteria you used to develop your portfolio. This activity will give you valuable experience in presenting important ideas to others and convincing them of your position.
There are four basic goals of the presentation:
Each of these goals matches the four groups that had responsibility for your portfolio display. During the portfolio presentation, each group will be responsible for the appropriate goal using the following guidelines.
A. Opening Oral Presentation
The first four minutes will be the opening presentation during which the group will present orally the most significant information from its part of the portfolio.
B. Follow-up Questions
The next six minutes will be the follow-up question period during which a panel of judges will ask the group about its portfolio presentation. During this period the judges might ask you to
You might ask parents or other community members experienced in making public presentations to coach your group. People involved in local government or in civic and community organizations can be very helpful.
Practice your oral presentation prior to giving it to an adult audience. Try it out in front of your classmates or students from other classes.
As many members of each group as possible should participate in the opening presentation and follow-up question period. The oral presentation should not be dominated by one or two students. It should demonstrate the cooperative learning that went into the portfolio preparation.
Do not read to the judges from your portfolio display. Select the most important information and arguments and present them in a conversational style.
You may use notes during the opening presentation but not during the follow-up question period.
If you do not use the full four minutes allowed for the opening presentation, the unused time will be added to the follow-up question period. Each group is entitled to ten minutes before the judges.
You may use only those materials included in your groups portfolio during your oral presentation.
E. Evaluation Criteria
If your class decides to enter a competition in which there is an oral presentation, your presentation will be scored by a panel of judges. Your teacher will explain the criteria to be used in judging those presentations.