Educating Children for Citizenship Begins Early

From their earliest years in our public schools, Falmouth children are learning through experience many aspects of good citizenship. In elementary grades, children make gardens to see where food comes from and learn about the earth-to-table processes involved. Some classes visit the Falmouth Historical Society’s museum, and docents also take objects to classrooms to show aspects of life in the early history of our town. Whaling, food and clothing production, governing and entertainment are all part of its history and were the responsibilities of many different citizens over the years.

Very young children hear stories about people and events that are celebrated at national holidays, thus providing the beginning of their civic identity. From 1st grade on, their identity as American citizens is re-enforced and expanded as they learn that the United States is a nation of immigrants; citizens represent all races and many different ethnicities and religions. The study of geography and time lines of the many different world civilizations gives children an introduction to the larger world and students can begin to see themselves as part of that world.

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At the Lawrence and Morse Pond schools, students can participate in forms of student government, and at election time, some schools become polling stations where the example of citizens exercising their fundamental right and responsibility to vote can be seen by our young future voters. Variations on the “town meeting” concept are also alive and well at several of our schools.

Modeling adult participation in representative government is a powerful way of learning about the roles of adult citizens.

Service learning activities are an important part of civic education in our schools.

These include food and toy collection drives that can introduce children to an appreciation of a greater sense of what constitutes good citizenship. Coastal sweeps or clean-up and analysis of refuse introduce ecology concepts. Water quality studies include observation and measurement.  All of these expand children’s understanding of the richness and complexity of civic responsibility.

Teachers from the elementary, middle and secondary level will provide more detail of the diversity of civic education in Falmouth at the League of Women Voters forum on civic education and engagement on Wednesday, April 16, at 7:30 PM in the Hermann Foundation Room of the Falmouth Public Library.

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