This week’s blog highlights Ezra’s new middle school Civics program. Over the summer, two of our teachers, Rabbi Amanda Brodie and Madeleine Cahn, joined the third cohort of faith-based schools and organizations enrolled in Civic Spirit’s flagship program, the Educator Cohort. Their experience brings a new energy and commitment to civics education at Ezra. One key benefit of the Civic Spirit program is the opportunity that both Madeleine and Rabbi Amanda now have to collaborate with educators from different schools who are equally committed to cross-disciplinary experiences in history, politics and the analysis of political origins and systems.
Another important element of Ezra’s Civics curriculum includes learning about respectful discourse, the sharing of personal perspectives, as well as media literacy and discussions across differences of opinion. These values have already been emphasized in other areas of the curriculum, such as Judaics, where students learn " Civic Skills" which includes how to relate to others in discussions, how to use democracy in a classroom and how to be an effective member of a group.
An example of this was seen recently in our 7-8 class where students worked on presentations that analyzed current battleground Senate races. Each team of students explained recent voting poll data, showed an advertisement from each candidate, and discussed how political preferences may affect the election outcome in each state. The discussions that followed each presentation focused on nuances in the political process, the efficacy of each campaign strategy, as well as the use of propaganda and negative advertising in political campaigns. Students were required to update all polling data the evening before they presented their slides in order to share the most up-to-date information.
When asked how her 7-8 Civics class is going this year, Rabbi Amanda responded, “There have been so many issues to discuss. We watched part of the Pennsylvania debate and had a fascinating conversation about Fetterman. Honestly. I could be teaching this class every day (instead of twice a week) and it wouldn't be enough time!”
In 5-6, Madeleine started the year focusing on what allows us to feel a sense of belonging and what it means to be connected to others within the Ezra learning community. As the advisor of our 5-6 class with Sam King, Madeleine has also introduced the idea of civic responsibility, compassion toward others, and the power of positivity as crucial skills in our Social Emotional Learning curriculum.
Our 5-6 Civics course also stresses the ability of students to build authentic relationships across differences. Although still at the beginning stages of teaching these important skills, Madeleine and our 5-6 students recently discussed civic responsibility and the importance of compassion and fair-mindedness. When debating what a well-run government in an ideal republic might look like, students argued for and against particular aspects and qualities important for a civil society. Students also discussed important personal characteristics that judges, senators, or governors should embody– including having “a great sense of humor, kindness, bravery, and the ability to fight for what is right”. Civic Spirit aims to blend character growth, social emotional development and authentic learning through collaboration, respect, and problem solving –all skills and experiences that make the learning experience at Ezra unique and valuable.