Thoughts on Civic Engagement in Schools

Students who participate in their communities are often more motivated to learn.

Thoughts on civic engagement in schools

A sustainable society needs motivated and engaged citizens.

For many educators, civic engagement — working to make a difference on issues that concern the community — is the heart of educating for sustainability. With civic engagement, young people develop the knowledge, skills, values, and motivation they need to make that difference.

While many schools require students to take part in service learning or volunteer projects, civic engagement goes a step further. It encourages young people to identify issues within the community and to address them in concrete ways. It involves students in community-wide needs and public concerns.

To that end, the most successful civic engagement projects help students see that their actions have an effect. The projects are meaningful, have academic integrity, are developmentally appropriate, and are realistic with the time and resources available to students.

Young people who participate in their communities often become more engaged at school. Seeing that their work has meaning in the wider community increases students' motivation to learn. Teachers have attributed improved scores on standardized tests and other academic indicators to students' civic engagement.