Citizen U was created through a grant awarded by the Library of Congress Teaching with Primary Sources (TPS) program to create inquiry-based multidisciplinary civics lessons. The first lessons resulted from a collaboration of the Barat Education Foundation, the Constitutional Rights Foundation, and DePaul University’s Office of Innovative Professional Learning. Since then, the program has expanded to add lessons from TPS Consortium Partners and TPS educator experts into the Citizen U Lesson Library (see inclusion criteria below) and to provide innovative and inclusive professional development opportunities.

On our site you will also find links to TPS Civics digital interactives and the Primary Source Nexus. The latter provides curated primary source sets on a myriad of subjects and topics, learning and teaching resources, and information and access to Library of Congress and TPS Consortium news, opportunities, and resources.

Want to know more? Read on or contact us.

Why Civics?

Today’s generation of students is more politically aware and energized than any since the 1960s, but lacks the basic understanding of civics and civic action to fully support our democratic traditions, at a time when we need a fully engaged and informed citizenry, including teens and children, to preserve and protect all that we as educators hold dear. The American public education system was originally developed to create good citizens, not good workers, able to take part in shaping and determining the direction of the country. We believe it’s time to return to that foundation throughout K-12 curricula.

Meaningful & Engaging Learning 

By employing Citizen U lessons in your classroom, you can not only help foster critical understanding that has been lost as civic education has been pushed aside in today’s high stakes testing environment, but based on our initial testing of these lessons in the field, we believe they will help make the subjects that you teach more meaningful, relevant, and engaging in your students’ eyes.

Multidisciplinary Civics Lessons

We started with 31 lessons integrating civics with social studies, science, math, or English language arts and targeted to grades 3-12. These lessons were developed with our partners and revised after pilot testing with teachers from across the country. Since then, we have been expanding the Citizen U Lesson Library to include early elementary (K-2) lessons and arts-integrated lessons that were developed by or in conjunction with TPS Consortium Partners as well as teachers in the field. Lessons in the library range from a single class period to longer week-long lessons. Below we list the inclusion criteria for lessons found in the Citizen U Lesson Library. If you have a lesson that you believe meets the criteria and would like to submit it for consideration, please contact us. Lessons can be uploaded to our website or linked to and accessed from an outside website.

Citizen U Lesson Library Inclusion Criteria

  • Have a multidisciplinary subject focus: civics + (social studies, ELA, science, math, art, music, etc.)
  • Be geared towards early elementary (K-2) elementary (3-5), middle (6-8), and/or high school (9-12); some lessons might work for more than one grade band
  • Include tasks/activities using 1 or more primary sources from the Library of Congress
  • Begin with a task/activity that sparks inquiry, often primary source analysis
  • Follows up with tasks/activities to deepen inquiry through further student investigations
  • Concludes with a task/activity that has students applying their learning by taking some kind of action that makes contemporary/personal connections

National Standards

All lessons in the Citizen U Lesson Library have been vetted to ensure that they develop critical thinking skills, are student centered, and correlate to national education standards in their subject areas. Because they increase the level of engagement and meaning associated with the subjects they cover, we believe they can’t help but improve performance in these areas.

21st-Century Skills

Beyond this, our lessons are designed to inculcate a wide variety of skills necessary for success in the 21st century, including collaboration, creativity, critical thinking, problem-solving, information literacy, communication, leadership, social responsibility and, of course, civic literacy itself.

Civic Literacy

From past experience, we know that civic literacy in the classroom environment can quickly spread to the surrounding school community while enhancing school culture (see Our American Voice), providing support, in turn, to your institutions at a time when education is under fiscal siege. We hope that you will join the growing network of school districts using programs like Citizen U and OAV to invoke the spirit of our field’s ancient root, educare, “to lead out.”  For more information, to keep apprised of opportunities for your schools, please subscribe to the Citizen U Bulletin. We look forward to working with you.