A simple equation. We all want the next generation to be civic-minded, learn about democracy, and make good decisions that will affect the future of our country – and, our planet. During election time, schools offer the “Kids Voting USA” curriculum to help students in grade K – 12 become informed about the greatest liberty of all—the right to vote.
Parents help in this area by engaging their children in dialogue and conversation that foster understanding about candidates, political parties and various issues on the ballots. This conversation also builds valuable critical thinking skills, encouraging kids to learn to make decisions based upon information and asking questions. This is what we all understand about this important topic of CITIZENSHIP. This trait is another strong pillar in our pursuit of CHARACTER EDUCATION elements taught in most schools throughout the country.
Other elements of good CITIZENSHIP include: taking care of one’s community; obeying laws and rules; respecting authority; and, protecting the environment. Parents help their children to understand these elements each and every day, from not littering on the street, to following traffic signs, to encouraging children to listen to their teachers and do what is expected each day at school. Many families practice environmental protection through recycling, water conservation and gardening.
However, there is one last component of CITIZENSHIP that often gets left out of the equation: CITIZENSHIP + SERVICE = LEADERSHIP. By offering service, students learn to become leaders. Leadership reinforces a strong sense of what it means to be a good citizen.
I wrote an article, “Lemon Aid in the Shade,” for Raising Arizona Kids magazine that appeared in the September 2010 issue. It was a story about two neighbors, elementary-aged children, who decided to raise money to help a local animal shelter. They picked lemons and made lemonade. With the help of their mothers, they baked chocolate chip cookies. This entire tasty combination soon went public! After building a stand out of cardboard boxes, they parked their newly-formed business near a local golf course. Needless to say, they earned a neat and tidy sum for the animal shelter. This is service learning in action and this is what builds leaders who have the potential to direct this great country in which we are privileged to live.
Have you or your children every been involved in a community or civic project that helped to teach service and leadership? Do you think this is important? What suggestions do you have for other parents/grandparents/guardians to build civic pride and participation?