In the not-too-distant future, the children who currently fill our classrooms, playgrounds and sports fields are the very people who will be our community and government leaders, our voters and activists, our entrepreneurs, our workforce and problem solvers.
It’s an exciting reality – and a reminder of just how important it is that the youth of today have the tools, knowledge and experiences they need to be the active, informed citizens of tomorrow.
Fortunately, there are a lot of creative ways we can inspire kids to learn about civics, to get engaged in their communities, and to help develop solutions to problems they encounter:
Encourage participation in community service opportunities. When children participate in volunteer opportunities and service-learning projects, they have opportunities to connect with others and to see first-hand how they can make a difference in their community. From neighborhood and park cleanups to volunteering at a food bank, animal shelter, or library, community service opportunities of all kinds can help students learn about civics – and are beneficial to the organizations and the community involved.
Plan visits to local town or city halls and state government buildings. Introduce youth to their local government’s programs, services, functions and people by visiting the places where laws are shaped. Local and state government agencies like the Maryland Department of Legislative Services often offer free guided tours that are highly informative and engaging, and sometimes allow you to observe citizen’s roles in the process. Just be sure to check the requirements for planning a tour and making advanced reservations ahead of visiting.
Encourage involvement in a youth group or club. Participation in organized afterschool activities, sporting clubs, scouting troops, music and arts organizations and other group activities can provide a myriad of benefits – including developing collaboration skills, practicing democratic processes and building connections between people and communities. By encouraging kids to participate in groups that align with their interests and needs, you can also help them learn and get excited about civic engagement.
Play fun and engaging games and watch videos that inspire kids to learn about civics. Help kids better understand topics like voting, constitutional rights, election campaigns, crafting laws and more through entertaining, engaging games that involve role-playing and informative activities. iCivics.org. offers a variety of free educational games, video series and other resources that are great for students of all ages.
Take part in civics challenges, competitions and contests. Inspire youth to learn about, explain and engage in civics through opportunities including quizzes, essay contests and competitions like the 2023 National Civics Bee happening right here in Maryland. Opportunities like these encourage children to get interested and stay engaged in civics and their communities for years to come.
At the Maryland Chamber Foundation, we know that encouraging kids to learn about civics – and ensuring they have the knowledge and skills they’ll need to be informed, active citizens – will help build a stronger state, country, economy and workforce in the future.
That’s one of the many reasons we are proud to participate in the 2023 National Civics Bee, organized in partnership with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s The Civic Trust and supported by six local chambers of commerce across Maryland.
Entries are being accepted through February 24th for this exciting competition, which invites middle school students across Maryland to increase their civic literacy, share their thoughts about how to solve a problem facing their community, and compete for chances to win recognition and cash prizes. Visit our website to learn more about and enter this year’s competition, which will conclude with a statewide competition in June to select the Maryland Civics Bee first, second and third place winners.
We hope parents, guardians, caregivers, educators and businesses will join us on this journey – and we are excited to see the great ideas, knowledge and interest in civics that Maryland students will showcase as part of this year’s National Civics Bee.
Whitney Harmel is the executive vice president of the Maryland Chamber, executive director of the Maryland Chamber Foundation, with expertise in small, large, local and international business. She is passionate about sharing the Chamber’s vision with the Maryland business community because the transformational work we do in economic development and grassroots advocacy and through the Maryland Chamber Foundation will make Maryland a stronger state for everyone.
Questions? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or (410) 269-0642.