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January 15, 2021

Edward M. Kennedy Institute Offers Online Civics Education Classes to 10,000 Students This Semester

BOSTON – Responding to calls from across the nation for increased and improved civics education, the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate is offering slots for 10,000 students and their teachers to participate this winter and spring in virtual, interactive classes led by Institute staff and focusing on major current political issues.

Highly trained, non-partisan instructors from the Institute, presenting both Democratic and Republican viewpoints, lead classes focusing on issues such as voting rights, the Green New Deal, the Electoral College, mandatory minimum sentencing, and the confirmation of new Cabinet members. Through the Institute’s “Virtual Today’s Vote,” students can also participate by videoconference in a simulated U.S. Senate session and a live floor debate on an actual piece of legislation pending before the Senate. Students then consider the issue from multiple perspectives, share their own ideas, and cast their (virtual) votes.

The Institute is also offering educators free access to a large collection of civics resources and lesson plans they can use to lead facilitated lessons in their own classrooms. Through www.TodaysVote.org and https://www.emkinstitute.org/online-resources, educators can download resources from more than a dozen programs developed by the Institute as well as digital exhibitions, curated content about our electoral system and voting, and topic-focused guides to encourage civic action at all ages.

“One theme that consistently emerges from discussions about this past November’s election is how important it is for Americans, regardless of party affiliation, to gain a greater understanding of how our constitutional democracy functions,’’ said Caroline Angel Burke, the Institute’s Vice President of Education, Visitor Experience & Collections. “We want to partner with even more teachers across America to encourage participatory democracy and civil discussion of important current issues and to inspire their students–our next generation of voting citizens and leaders–to engage in the civic life of their communities and country.’’

A complete list of the live, interactive virtual classroom opportunities being offered by the Institute can be found here. Teachers can submit requests to participate in Institute-led classes at https://www.emkinstitute.org/resources/visit-request-form.

“While the main focus of our online education efforts this spring is middle- and high-school civics education, we have great opportunities available for K-5 and college students as well,’’ Angel Burke added. Through support from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and a donation from The James M. and Cathleen D. Stone Family Foundation, participation in online classes is free for students from Massachusetts public schools, with a small fee charged for students from private and out-of-state schools and colleges and need-based scholarships available.

Teachers whose classes have participated in the Institute’s online education this year have praised how informative and engaging it proved to be for their students.

“They were really great at presenting and engaging the students at the same time,’’ said Dennis Frank, an American History teacher at Iroquois Middle School in Niskayuna N.Y., who had 173 of his 8th grade students participate in an Institute class last fall. “It’s a professional organization that’s extremely well run and that has the capability of engaging 13- and 14-year-olds in a way they may not expect to be engaged.”

Added Emily Silas, an AP U.S. Government and Politics teacher at Boston English High School, “It was really great. My students were so into it. Afterwards I asked them, should I bring my students next year and they said: ‘Absolutely do it!’ I think my kids would love to do it again next week.”

About the Edward M. Kennedy Institute
The Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate is dedicated to educating the public about the important role of the Senate in our government, encouraging participatory democracy, invigorating civil discourse, and inspiring the next generation of citizens and leaders to engage in the civic life of their communities. Learn more via www.emkinstitute.org.

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