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House Bill 273: School Districts & Schools Selected to Innovate in Civics Education (Round 1)

The Utah State Board of Education (USBE) selected grantees for the first round of funding through House Bill 273 Civics Education Amendments (Rep. Dan Johnson). Passed in the 2022 General Session of the Utah Legislature, HB 273 dedicated $1.5 million over 3 years to pilot evidence-informed local innovations in civics teaching and

learning under three categories:

  1. Constitutional literacy

  2. Media literacy or digital citizenship; and

  3. Academic service learning initiatives that are grounded in an understanding of constitutional concepts and the policymaking process.

For the first summer round of funding, the following school districts and schools received funding:

Selected Proposals: School Districts

  • Alpine District: Civic Engagement Academy. A cohort of educators will engage 12,000+ students in civic engagement projects to create a culture of students who are active, informed citizens in their communities. Participating educators will receive professional development and support for their activities. Amount: $65,000.

  • Cache School District: A Collaborative Approach to Incorporating Civic Online Reasoning and Civics Education in the Classroom. Project brings school librarians and social studies teachers together to teach students how to become better citizens, both in their communities and online. $161,244.

  • Canyons District: Information Investigators. K-12 classroom educators and teacher librarians will learn how to embed Constitutional, information and media literacy skills in the ELA (English Language Arts) and Social Studies to impact every student district wide. Instruction will provide examples to educators on the opportunities for each student to demonstrate media/digital literacy through informed participation in civic life. $263,000.

  • Jordan District: Powerful Moments in Citizenship. The project will improve civic engagement for 4th-8th grade students in the Jordan School District through a collaborative effort with Brigham Young University’s Dr. Jeff Nokes, a history professor with a PhD in Teaching and Learning. Nokes will provide professional development and training to Jordan history teachers to help them build civil dialogue skills, incorporate service learning, and increase constitutional literacy in their classrooms. $145,670.

  • Nebo District:

    • Align Elementary Social Studies Standards with Journeys,. (elementary reader). The project will engage five teachers per elementary grade (and pay for subs) to focus on integrating social studies standards with literacy and ELA skills. Amount: $26,400.

    • We the People. Training and incentives, materials, and resources for educators and administrators to implement the proven program in more schools and classrooms. Depending on results, the project may include a district-wide competition. $38,700.

Selected Proposals: individual Schools (school district in parenthesis)

  • Bryce Valley Elementary (Garfield): E Pluribus Unum. Students will create a book of oral histories wherein they address critical questions like: “What does it mean to be an American to you?” “What have you done to make America a better place for all of us?” Amount: $36,000. .

  • Cedar High (Iron) Mock Trial Program. Students will learn how the judicial process works through the proven Mock Trial program. The Business Law teacher, as well as two local attorneys, will instruct and advise students in conjunction with Utah Law Related Education, a nonprofit. Students will gain an understanding of applied constitutional law, the legal system and civil rights by constructing a legal strategy and competing with other high school Mock Trial teams statewide. Amount: $6,000.

  • Legacy Junior High (Davis): Mock Trial. Grant funds will be used to cover transportation to four Mock Trial competitions. Amount: $800.

  • Mountain Heights Academy (Charter): Project Citizen. Two teachers will run the program with 24 Mountain Heights Academy students from grades 10-12. Students will apply and be selected for this program which will teach civic involvement through many activities including discussions, research, a mock public hearing, a field trip to the Utah State Capitol, and six days in Washington D.C. $4,245.

  • Mount Logan Middle School (Logan City School District). Civic Learning and Service Group. Program will inspire self-sufficiency, service learning, and active citizenship through recycling, composting, gardening, service challenges, community engagement, and problem solving. $130,000.

  • Orchard Elementary (Alpine): Fostering Social Studies & Civics Education. Funds will be used to purchase and utilize resources and support professional and curriculum development to integrate social studies standards in several academic areas throughout the year. Amount: $30,000.

At a recent meeting of the Utah Civic Learning Collaborative the USBE’s Robert Austin and members shared observations from Round 1 along with insights for Round 2 (announced later in the Fall of 2022):

  • We can't fund everything, but we don't need to fund everything to learn from the innovations.

  • We did not fund proposals that could have been funded with other funding.

  • Sustainability was a key factor in the selection process. Applicants needed to demonstrate how they will sustain the project beyond the 3 year pilot period.

  • There may be opportunity in the after-school context, which engages diverse youth.

  • To motivate more academic service learning (wherein the service is tied to academic study of the issues underlying the need for the given service) submissions, the UCLC website will update its list of nonpartisan nonprofits that are prepared to partner with schools and school districts. Fresh examples of nonprofits addressing issues in nonpartisan ways (that tie well to academic study of the given issues) include the Great Salt Lake Collaborative, Waste Less Solutions (where students work to reduce waste in the cafeteria), and the Seven Canyons Trust.

Robert Austin, USBE Humanities Team Coordinator, is available to give one-on-one feedback, or explore ideas with potential applicants for round 2.

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