Ball State University Awarded $1.3 Million Grant to Enhance Civics Education in Muncie Community Schools

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By BSU Marketing and Communications—

MUNCIE, Indiana – Ball State University has been awarded a grant from the U.S. Department of Education, totaling more than $1.3 million over three years, for its project, Civic Renewal through Education for Agency, or CREATE. The project is aligned with the American History and Civics Education-National Activities program, which is funded by Congress as part of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), Public Law 114–95.

In cooperation with Muncie Community Schools (MCS), Ball State will develop the project as an innovative approach to instruction, student learning, and professional development in civics that will integrate American history, geography, government, and media literacy.

Dr. Anand R. Marri, dean of Ball State University’s Teachers College, and Dr. David J. Roof, associate professor of Educational Studies, will serve as co-principal investigators for the project. The team from Ball State will also include: Dr. Jill Bradley-Levine, associate professor of Educational Studies; Dr. Jerrell C. Cassady, professor of Psychology-Educational Psychology; Kate H. Elliott, lecturer of Journalism; and Dr. Michael T. Ndemanu, associate professor of Multicultural Education.

“Our CREATE team is driven to enhance educators’ capacity to foster civic learning in students,” Dr. Marri said. “CREATE builds on both time-tested and cutting-edge approaches to civic learning, integrating, and adapting multiple evidence-based strategies, and tracking and assessing the resultant outcomes to produce a replicable, scalable model for building the civic capacity of communities through their K-12 schools.”

Once implemented, the CREATE project will have developed the following components:

  • A Civic Learning Repository, with an extensive set of resources pertaining to civics, American history, geography, government, and media literacy.
  • An extensive set of professional development opportunities for civics, history, and social studies teachers and administrators offered during the school year to enhance and multiply the resources and skills teachers bring to MCS’ civics and civics-related courses. One major focus of this will be parent, family, and community engagement.
  • A summer Civic Learning Academy for MCS teachers and selected students. This 14-day program will immerse at least 10 teachers annually in civics and history curriculum. The Academy will also immerse at least 30 students annually in the same curriculum simultaneously with teachers, providing teachers an opportunity to see students co-direct their own civic learning and preparing students to model such agentic learning in their classrooms.
  • An emphasis on teacher-initiated, student-designed civics and history projects and field trips. The CREATE project includes funding, allocated on a competitive basis, for teachers with innovative ideas, existing institutional resources, and identified opportunities for modeling constructive civic practices.
  • An annual Civic Learning Symposium for teachers, students, project personnel, national experts, and other interested stakeholders. This annual symposium will involve national experts in civics and history as event speakers. As an interactive symposium, local teachers will present their innovative approaches to civics in the classroom. This symposium will also serve as a capstone event to recap innovations and achievements during the previous year.

A major factor positioning Ball State to develop and disseminate innovative and exceptional approaches to improve the quality of American civics instruction is a new Indiana law that requires every middle school student in the state to take a civics course by 2023. This new law requires students in grades 6-8 to take a semester-long civics course, but the law does not provide detailed guidance about course content and objectives or about how to prepare educators to design and teach such a course.

“Ball State has demonstrated expertise in the development of evidence-based approaches to improve the quality of American civics instruction, as well as innovative learning and teaching related to history, government, geography, and media literacy,” Dr. Roof said. “Accordingly, our leadership in this collaborative partnership presents an opportunity to share the learnings and demonstrably successful innovations of the CREATE project beyond Muncie Community Schools. The aim is to provide a working model for Indiana and other states to explore, test, and adapt.”

CREATE’s approach to civics education stems from a collaboration with a multi-institutional team of nationally recognized scholars currently piloting a civics curriculum for undergraduates and pre-service teachers.

This initial project, funded by the Teagle Foundation and the Minnesota Humanities Center, sought to transcend the “civics wars” and history wars” that occupy the higher-education commentariat by focusing, instead, on the documented desire of college students themselves for a practically democratic education: one that positions them for economic success but also prepares them for lives of public purpose and productive citizenship.

The CREATE team is driven to enhance educators’ capacity to foster three types of civic learning in students:

  • Civic knowledge, or an understanding of American history and political development, governmental structures and processes, and relevant social studies knowledge and concepts.
  • Civic skills, or the capacities that enable students to participate in a democracy as free, responsible, deliberative, and productive citizens.
  • Civic dispositions, or the attitudes important in a democracy such as a sense of responsibility for one’s community and nation, an awareness of a shared fate with fellow citizens, curiosity about the challenges and opportunities of public life, and concern for the welfare of others.

“Our aim is to equip schools to foster civic agency in their students,” Dr. Marri said. “Students should have the capacity to work across differences for shared purposes, in line with their considered values, yet in pursuit of a commonwealth reflecting as many divergent perspectives and lifeways as basic justice, general health, and universal dignity can accommodate.”

About Ball State

Founded in 1918 and located in Muncie, Ball State University is one of Indiana’s premier universities and an economic driver for the state. Ball State’s 21,600 students come from all over Indiana, the nation, and the world. The 790-acre campus is large enough to accommodate first-rate facilities and 19 NCAA Division I sports, but our welcoming and inclusive campus is small enough to ensure the friendliness, personal attention, and access that are the hallmarks of the University. Destination 2040: Our Flight Path establishes Ball State’s ambitious goals for our second century. We Fly!