Babies are designed for democracy  

peek a boo

Peek-a-boo is active participation in a community…

The same activities that support the healthy development of their bodies and brains allow them to develop the skills needed to be a citizen in a democratic society.

The first game that a mother or father plays with their child – whether smiling back when he smiles, saying “baa” when she says “baa” – helps an infant to recognize they are an individual within a community. The repeated the game allows their brain to refine the connections needed to learn about and interact with the world.  

Infants learn by repeating actions. Games that mirror their actions, lead to discoveries about themselves and other people. Playtime with family and friends, teaches them that other people will respond to them and that they can attract the attention of others. Through these first games, children are learning the foundations of social interactions and active engagement with other people. These help lay the foundation for having healthy relationships, recognizing other people‘s needs as well as understanding and appreciating differences. These activities are essential to grow active, engaged citizens; they are the first games a parent plays with a child.

Today play peek-a-boo with mom, dad and the person behind you in the grocery store line;  tomorrow make eye contact with a homeless person, run an errand for a neighbor, help make your community cleaner, safer, or  friendlier.

Peek-a-boo is active participation in a community.

– Dr. Elizabeth Waters

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AuthorDr. Elizabeth Waters

A child's heroes

girl with American flag

Growing a nation for future citizens in our democracy…

A child’s first heroes are those closest to them –  at home and in their neighborhood. Many children personally know a person who has served in the military.

The first person I met that served in the military was my father. I met him when I was almost two years old and he returned from serving in the army overseas. I didn’t realize until I was in first or second grade, how many other children also have fathers, uncles, or grandfathers and mothers, aunts and grandmothers who served in the military. This pride, this sense of belonging to a special group, is a powerful feeling for a six year old. I still feel it.  

Children in early elementary school learn best through stories and experience. What I was learning from celebrating Veterans Day with my schoolmates was the joy of honoring all the people and all the work that is necessary to make our democracy strong.  What I learned from my father is that a good guy sometimes has mixed feelings about his actions. What I learned from being a six year old is that his feelings did not prevent our family from being so proud of his service that we could bust.

On Veterans Day, our heroes at home and abroad continue to defend the democracy and the rights of every citizen by their example and sacrifice. From the youngest to the oldest, we can all appreciate the work needed to protect and grow a nation for future citizens in our democracy.

Learn more about opportunities to celebrate heroes at https://constitutioncenter.org/learn/civic-calendar

– Dr. Elizabeth Waters

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AuthorDr. Elizabeth Waters
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‘This applies to me and my life.’

Children voting in their classroom

It starts with the personal…

Ten year olds live in a world in which their passion for freedom and justice (the promise of democracy) is starting to drive them. A decade in, children start to also see that they have rights, responsibilities and privileges in their communities. Yet they also perceive unfair constrictions and age discrimination, contradictions and rules. Especially children who are ‘different’ from their peers (i.e., in color, ability or physicality). To develop emotionally and get the reward that the promise offers, they must learn: Nuance. Balance. Perspective. Perseverance. In other words, during their pre teen age reality must start to be reckoned with.

Within this complexity a child’s character, brain and body are changing, developing. And we can only hope and pray they will emerge as active democratic civic thinkers and doers.

In class fifth graders might study different forms of government but the curriculum doesn’t necessarily delve into what it means to be in a representative democracy - as it relates to their 10 year old lives.

Relevance – the ‘I care about this’ revelation – captures a child’s interest at any age as their universe is in the slow process of expansion. But it’s especially pronounced at the 8-10 age. And learning happens differently when it’s about something that affects you: When you see the impact of thoughtful action or careless inaction, for instance. For a 10 year old this can be as simple as insuring that they have the right not to be interrupted by their teacher. Or that an adult does not have the right to touch them if they don’t want to be touched.

Democratic civil rights, responsibilities and privileges are in everything, all the time. So when it comes to civics how do we nurture the child’s natural instincts in a relevant, age-appropriate way? Right in their backyard, in their classrooms? Slowly, over time, the mind-boggling aspects of our complex local and federal governmental structure may start to make sense. But it starts with the personal: How does this apply to me and my life?


– DK Holland

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AuthorDK Holland

Three school rules to live by

Inquiring Minds Civics Engagement

Bring the entire school together to make rules …

Every morning in my middle school, I would attend the school-wide morning meeting where we would sing and celebrate the unity the school worked hard to create. Regardless of which song we sang or whose birthday it was, the meeting ended in the same way: a call and response of our three school rules. Mr. Bobby would pick three kids to recite the school rules, “I will take care of myself. I will take care of others. And I will take care of my community.” These rules were not difficult to remember nor difficult to implement; they were simple and, perhaps, that was the brilliance of it. Whenever a disagreement occurred, we would be reminded of the three rules and, almost immediately, the disagreement would dissipate and seem silly. We were reminded of scope. These three school rules were a way for us, the students, to recognize our levels of engagement.

First, we have ourselves. The most important and fundamental form of engagement is to know and question ourselves. This is achieved through the conscious efforts of introspection. Ultimately, we can only control ourselves and the actions we make.

Secondly, taking care of others is an active choice we can make. Seeing ourselves in others is the truest form of empathy, actively causing us to treat other people with respect.

Lastly, ‘my community’ implies people around you that you directly have influence over. We were reminded of the privilege of being able to help. It might seem as if those you can help is confined to faces you recognize but, in reality, it is much more inclusive of those faces you don't. Having a greater perspectives of the small acts of kindness we can do and how it will affect others, might cause us to do more acts of kindness every day. This could be as simple of picking up a piece of trash on the street, or holding the door open for the person behind you.

Remember those three simple rules: take care of yourself, take care of others, and take care of the community. See if it works for you and the children around you.

– anonymous

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AuthorAnonymous