Eighth Grade

Civic Engagement in Our Democracy

In the fall of 2019, all 8th grade students in the Cambridge Public Schools will study civics in this new course, which was co-created with the Democratic Knowledge Project (DKP) at Harvard University beginning in the summer of 2018.

In this course, 8th graders develop critical thinking skills and a thorough understanding of the foundations and workings of our government in the United States. Students continue to:

  • develop their research skills
  • read and analyze primary and secondary sources
  • participate in interactive and collaborative work
  • explore different points of view, motives and biases.

Throughout the course, students study the past to better understand the present, so that they are equipped to engage in civic action and to create change.

The course begins with an identity unit focusing on individual values and systems of oppression. Students then explore the founding values of the United States, as expressed through grievances in the Declaration of Independence that were later addressed in the Bill of Rights. In a case study on Prince Hall and the philosophical foundations of democracy, students consider participatory politics and the choices an individual has to remain loyal, express voice, or exit. A unit on justice in action explores additional case studies, including the Little Rock Nine (using material from Facing History and Ourselves), Constitutional Amendments, and Supreme Court cases. The year culminates in a research editorial and a student-led civic action project.

Units of Study Year-long Essential Questions
Identity, Values and Agency
What is a just society?

What are the sources of power, and how can they be organized and channeled?

How can individuals and groups make a difference?

How to Write a Constitution: Political Institutions in the United States
Loyalty, Voice or Exit: Philosophical Foundations of Democracy
Justice in Action: Levers of Change
Research Editorials
Civic Action: Voice and Influence

In addition to a research op-ed, all 8th grade students will complete several shorter writing assignments and work with primary and secondary source documents related to a Document Based Question (DBQ).

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