State launches school civic engagement program

Secretary of the State Denise Merrill and Education Commissioner Dianna R. Wentzell announced the launch of the Red, White, and Blue Schools Initiative on June 7.

The initiative is a partnership between the State Department of Education and Office of the Secretary of the State that will reward schools that develop programs designed to foster strong civic engagement among students.

“It is critical that we equip young people with the knowledge and perspective it will take to be informed, active citizens in a global society,” Wentzell said in a press release.

“The Red, White, and Blue Schools Initiative encourages schools to think outside the box about ways to engage students more actively in community and government.”

The program, available to all K-12 schools in Connecticut, will launch in the fall of the 2016-17 school year.

Each year, a  theme will be announced and schools will be encouraged to teach the theme through interdisciplinary activities, whole-school events, extracurricular clubs and activities, student-centered learning and community outreach.

The theme for the first year will be “The Electoral Process”

“A presidential election gives us so many opportunities to learn about democracy,” Merrill stated in a press release. “Students can learn how voters are registered and polling locations are set up as well as how the votes are counted. What better time to learn about our democracy than an election year?”

To be considered a Red, White, and Blue School, a school will have to meet certain requirements, such as:

  • Integrating lessons about civic engagement into social studies classes and at least two other subjects.

  • Holding a whole-school event focused on student engagement, such as a mock election or a student-led candidate forum.

Participating schools will be encouraged to not only take innovative approaches to teaching civics in the classroom, but also consider involving extracurricular activities that promote civic and community engagement.