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Civics goes beyond 101

Sandra Smyser
Eagle County, CO, Colorado
newsroom@vaildaily.com

As Election Day 2008 has come and gone, I hope you voiced your opinion and exercised your right as an American to vote at the polls.

With the nation focusing on the future of our country, we must take the opportunity to teach our children about the importance of civic duty and their responsibility to be productive members of Eagle County, the United States of America and the world beyond.

The dictionary defines “civics” as the study or science of the privileges and obligations of citizens. It is important to point out that actively participating in and contributing to the society in which we live is something that we learn.

As educators, it is our responsibility to help our children acquire this knowledge.

In school districts across the nation, there has been a focus on the standard curriculum, sometimes at the expense of the arts, music and other essential electives that encourage creativity and help to develop well-rounded, productive members of society.

We understand the importance of learning academics in order to be successful, but we need our future leaders to comprehend core values of contributing to society at the same time.

Working examples of this are most certainly taking place in Eagle County Schools.

On Nov. 21, for instance, members of the Battle Mountain High School Future Business Leaders of America will travel to their National Conference in New Orleans in hopes of expanding their knowledge on business ethics and practices while competing with other school districts around the nation, and also helping those in need along the hurricane-stricken Gulf Coast.

In conjunction with an organization called Stand Up For Kids, the group is assembling hundreds of care packages to distribute to at-risk youth and homeless children and families that reside in the area.

In addition, many of our schools took part in Make a Difference Day, the nation’s largest single day of volunteerism. Schools collected non-perishable food items and monetary donations for the drive to distribute to those in need. Our students have also made numerous restoration trips to local trails in need of repair in the Eagle County area.

Working as part of a group also has a great return. Many of our students have already made personal commitments to society by serving as Boy/Girl Scouts and 4-H members, participating in Habitat for Humanity, joining the choir in their place of worship and taking part in clubs in which community service projects are a major focus in the success of the group.

Service-learning is a method of teaching, learning and reflecting that combines academic classroom curriculum with meaningful service, frequently youth service, throughout the community. It is more involved than collecting cans for a food drive or donating money for a cause.

Consistent experiences with service will give greater relevance to our civic mission, engage students deeply in the world around them and cultivate a sense of social awareness and responsibility.

We need our students to spend time catching up on local, national and global issues through media, classroom discussions and self-discovery. I have faith that our teachers are providing opportunities for our students to explore their civic duty in hopes of sparking their curiosity and interest not only in Eagle County but in the world.

Our children must participate in civic activities because what they do now will most certainly affect the avenues they pursue in post-secondary adventures.

Use this election season to begin a habit of regularly speaking with your kids about current events and what is going on in the world.

Help them to not only understand your viewpoints, but also the reasoning behind your opinions. Teach your children to respect opposing perspectives.

This is a call to action not only for parents, but also to students, teachers and community members.

Sandra Smyser is the superintendent of the Eagle County School District.


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