Citizen U is supported by a grant from the Library of Congress Teaching with Primary Sources (TPS) program. It was originally created to develop and house inquiry-based multidisciplinary civics lessons to add to the TPS resources developed by the Barat Education Foundation (BEF) since 2004. The first lessons resulted from a collaboration of BEF, 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 serve as a Civics Resource Center, providing civics news, resources, and innovative and inclusive professional development opportunities.

On our menu bar you will also find a link to the Citizen U Primary Source Nexus, which 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 lessons from the Citizen U Lesson Library or TPS Civics interactives 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 also help make the subjects that you teach more meaningful, relevant, and engaging in your students’ eyes.

Multidisciplinary Civics Lesson Library

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. Next came the expansion of this unique civics lesson database. The Multidisciplinary Civics Lesson Library now includes early elementary (K-2) lessons and arts-integrated lessons that were developed by the Library of Congress, TPS Consortium Partners, and master teachers in the field. Uniquely, all the lessons in the database help students make contemporary and/or personal connections to the content.

Library lessons range from a single class period to multi-week units. If you have a lesson that you believe meets the lesson library criteria below and would like to submit it for consideration, please contact us. Lessons can be uploaded to our database or simply linked to and accessed from your organization's website.

Lesson Library Inclusion Criteria

  • Has a multidisciplinary subject focus: civics + (social studies, ELA, science, math, art, music, etc.)
  • Is targeted 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
  • Includes tasks/activities using 1 or more primary sources from the Library of Congress
  • Begins 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 in which students apply their learning by taking action and making 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.

TPS Civics Interactives

Primary sources have tremendous educational power and can be used effectively in many different ways with students at all grade levels. The TPS Civics interactive projects were developed by a number of organizations through grants from the Library of Congress TPS Program. Each interactive provides students with engaging and meaningful opportunities to learn about Congress and civic participation using primary sources from the Library’s online collections.

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.”


Contact us.