A Portfolio-Based Civic Education
We the People: Project Citizen is a curricular program for middle, secondary, and post-secondary students and adult groups that promotes competent and responsible participation in local and state government. The program helps people 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.
Entire classes of students or members of youth organizations work cooperatively to identify a public policy problem in their community. They then research the problem, evaluate alternative solutions, develop their own solution in the form of a public policy, and create a political action plan to enlist local or state authorities to adopt their proposed policy. Participants develop a portfolio of their work and present their project in a hearing showcase before a panel of civic-minded community members.
Project Citizen focuses on the role of state and local governments in the U.S. federal system. The curriculum involves an entire class of students or members of youth or adult groups in a series of structured, cooperative learning activities that are guided by teachers, organization leaders, and adult volunteers. Working in four cooperative teams, the students learn to interact with their government through a five step process that includes:
Studentsí work is displayed in a class portfolio
containing a display section and a documentation section.
There are two levels of Project Citizen program materials; each level includes a process-oriented student text. Level 1 is most appropriate for middle school students and Level 2 for secondary or post-secondary students. The teacherís guide for each level includes directions for leading students through a multi-step process in which they conduct research on a community problem and propose a public policy solution. The teacherís guide provides instructions for developing a class portfolio and preparing for a simulated public hearing.
Each year, Civic Education Washington State is provided with a limited number of free sets of materials to distribute to teachers wishing to participate in the Project Citizen program.
Participating teachers and organization leaders are encouraged to hold a showcase hearing as the culminating activity for Project Citizen. Each of the four working groups prepares and presents a statement on its section of the portfolio before a panel of community representatives who act as legislative or administrative committee members. Each group then answers questions posed by the committee members. The format provides students an opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge and understanding of how public policy is formulated while providing teachers with an excellent means of assessing performance.
The Washington State Project Citizen Showcase is
held in May every year. To participate at the state showcase, a class must
first participate in a congressional district showcase. The top performing
class at each district showcase is then eligible to advance to the state
showcase. The portfolio winner from the state is sent to the annual Project
Citizen National Showcase. This culminating event is held in conjunction with
the Legislative Summit of the National Conference of State Legislatures. State
legislators, staff, and other adult volunteers from across the nation serve as
evaluators, determining the level of achievement attained by each portfolio.
The curriculum was first used in the 1995-96 school year as a pilot in 12 states. Since then the domestic program has expanded to include schools in every state as well as American Samoa, the District of Columbia, Guam and Puerto Rico. As of September 29, 2008, approximately 32,200 teachers have taught Project Citizen to over 1,955,000 students.
The formula for tracking student participation is based on two different surveys. The first was conducted in November 1997 by researchers at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, University of Texas at Austin, in preparing An Assessment of We the People Project Citizen: Promoting Citizenship in Classrooms and Communities. The second was conducted by the Center for Civic Education in February 1999.International
Project Citizen is used in classrooms around the world and has been translated into more than 40 languages. Countries using the curriculum include: Albania, Argentina, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Croatia, Czech Republic, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, Germany, Ghana, Honduras, Hungary, Indonesia, Israel, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Korea (south), Kosovo, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lebanon, Lithuania, Macedonia, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Mali, Mexico, Mongolia, Morocco, Nigeria, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Poland, Puerto Rico, Romania, Russia, Senegal, Serbia and Montenegro, Slovak Republic, Slovakia, South Africa, Taiwan, Thailand, Ukraine, West Bank and Gaza.
How To Get Involved
The Project Citizen program is administered by Civic Education Washington State with the assistance of the Center for Civic Education and the National Conference of State Legislatures. Funding is provided by the Washington State Legislature and by the U.S. Department of Education by act of Congress.
Teachers and Educators may:
Government Officials may:
Community, Business, and Professional
For more information on participating in the Project Citizen program, contact Kathy Hand and/or your congressional district volunteer.