What is your definition of citizenship? What's your child's understanding of what constitutes a good citizen? Leah Davies, M.Ed. in her article "20 Ideas for Teaching Citizenship to Children" gives this great synopsis of what citizenship means:
Citizenship means being a member of and supporting one's community and country. A United States citizen has certain freedoms which are declared in the U.S. Bill of Rights. In addition to these privileges, a citizen has an obligation to be informed, law abiding, and uphold basic democratic principles such as tolerance and civic responsibility. Voting, conserving natural resources, and taking care of oneself are all part of citizenship. In addition, citizens often participate in local community projects dedicated to the common good.
In her article, Ms. Davies encourages parents to talk with their children and ask them what they think are the responsibilities of a good citizen. Then have them think about times when they or someone they know exhibited good citizenship.
- I was friendly to a new child from a different country.
- I helped clean up the park.
- My mom and I passed out voter pamphlets.
- I collected used toys and clothes for needy children.
- I walked away from a fight.
- I said "no" when a friend asked me to steal money from another child.
- I wear my bike helmet and follow other bike safety rules.
- I wait for the signal to cross the street and I stay in the cross walk.
According to Ms. Davies:
As parents, if we aren't intentional about instilling these concepts in our children, they may grow up not understanding the sacrifices of their forefathers and why it's important to stay involved in their communities and in the democratic process.
Helping students explore citizenship and connecting it to their lives are the keys to true understanding. When children are exposed to storytelling, drama, and other activities in which they are actively involved, their retention is increased. If they learn that people from other countries are not necessarily free to voice dissenting opinions, practice their religion, or even have as many children as they would like, the students will begin to appreciate their freedoms.
This summer, Freedom Friday is focusing on ways we can build citizenship in our children. Here are earlier posts from this series: