Project Citizen is a nonpartisan, project-based learning civic engagement model that helps students solve community problems through the research and development of public policy alternatives. Middle and high school students identify a problem in their communities; research the problem and corresponding policy alternatives to solve the problem effectively; select or create a policy that best resolves the problem; and prepare an action plan with the steps needed to have the policy enacted and implemented by the government. Students prepare a traditional or digital portfolio and may present their proposals before panels of judges at the district and state levels.
In the classroom, teachers provide the framework for the problem-solving exercise and evaluate student work throughout the process. This is a great end of year project for students to demonstrate their civic knowledge. To successfully complete the project, students will need to know the branches and levels of government, public institutions and governmental processes, types of public policy, civic engagement strategies, how to evaluate the constitutionality of public policy proposals, and the role of the citizen in influencing public policy.
The Project Citizen Model
The Project Citizen model consists of the development of a portfolio to showcase the students’ work, and participation in an optional mock legislative hearing to present the portfolio. There are four specific elements to the portfolio and presentation. Students identify a problem in their communities; research public policy alternatives to solve the problem; select or create the best public policy solution to resolve the identified problem; and create an action plan with the steps needed to have the policy enacted and implemented by the government. Students display their work in a traditional portfolio with four panels or a digital portfolio. The presentation and corresponding portfolio should incorporate the following components.
Students should start with the problem statement. It should be concrete. They should explain the problem and why it is important. The students should document how widespread the problem is and how serious. Students should include why this problem should be handled by the government. What level of government will address this problem and what agencies may be involved? Students should examine if there are any existing laws or policies currently addressing this problem and why they may be inadequate.
Students should identify several alternative policies they have researched addressing the problem. These alternative policies may be existing policies or policies currently being proposed by other groups or entities. The students may also draft their own policy solutions. For each identified policy alternative, students should identify who is proposing the policy, who supports and doesn’t support each policy, and what are the advantages and disadvantages of each proposal.
Proposed Policy Solution
In panel three, students will identify the public policy solution they think will be the best solution to their problem. This can be one of the policies highlighted in panel two, a combination or adaptation of existing policies, or it can be an original idea. The students should explain why this policy is constitutional and why it does not violate the United States Constitution or the Florida Constitution. They should discuss the advantages and disadvantages of the proposed policy. Additionally, students should know the level of government responsible for adopting the policy and the agencies that may be involved with implementation.
Students will develop and present an action plan to get the policy adopted by the appropriate governmental body or agency. They will identify people or groups that may support or oppose the policy and examine how they may garner additional support. The action plan should include the steps needed to have the policy enacted and implemented by the government.
Size Requirements for Portfolios
Portfolios may be submitted in one of two specific formats. Traditional portfolios should have four panels addressing each of the previously identified components. The class should select a clever title for their presentation as the heading for the portfolio. The presentation portfolio will be similar to a history fair portfolio. The size requirements are as follows. Each panel should be no larger than 32 inches by 40 inches. Foam core panels are light and easy to work with and decorate. The four panels must fold flat. See visuals provided. No three-dimensional items are permitted on the boards. Panels can be hinged with Velcro strips. Use the Portfolio Criteria Checklist to ensure your portfolio includes all required information. Don’t forget to include a clever title on your portfolio.
A binder is also required to accompany the portfolio. The binder should include sections corresponding to the portfolio but will contain additional materials and research resources and documentation.
Don’t forget to include bibliographies and reflections! Use this interactive model portfolio to review what is important to include in the portfolio and the binder.
Digital Portfolio Entries
Classes may elect to submit a digital portfolio as opposed to a traditional portfolio. Digital portfolios may be submitted in the form of a PowerPoint presentation, Prezi, Wiki Project, Padlet, or other models. The materials should conform to the traditional portfolio components and provide all relevant materials but in a digital format.
Digital portfolios may integrate a variety of visual and graphic components as well as animations and video elements. Students may record short audio or video clips explaining their work if desired.