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Civics instruction is topic of workshop for NH educators

Union Leader Correspondent

June 27. 2016 11:18PM

Judge Marjorie Rendell, co-founder of Rendell Center for Civics and Civic Engagement in Philadelphia, Pa., spoke Monday in Dover about ways to creatively get students into civics and being engaged in their government. (KIMBERLEY HAAS)

DOVER — Approximately 50 educators from throughout the state learned how to bring civics education to life during a day-long workshop Monday at the Children’s Museum of New Hampshire in Dover.

Judge Marjorie Rendell, co-founder of Rendell Center for Civics and Civic Engagement in Philadelphia, Pa., started the day with a keynote address, using research and theory to inspire the teachers. Rendell said elementary school children who are taught about the way our government is run are more likely to volunteer, talk about politics at home and become engaged in the political process later in life.

“If we teach them when they’re young, we don’t have to approach them at 16 and 17 years old, and tell them they have to vote,” Rendell said.

Rendell encouraged the teachers to use mock trials and skits to engage students. She also offered them examples of how they can get kids to see that laws apply to every part of their lives.

Rendell asked the teachers to list things students would rather be doing than studying civics. When one man said, “playing Minecraft,” she said that is regulated by the Federal Communications Commission.

Rendell pointed out that even the beds we sleep on are controlled by laws.

“In America, as we live and breathe, the law is ever pervasive,” Rendell said.

After her speech, Rendell said that in New Hampshire, residents have a special advantage when it comes to meeting and shaking the hands of presidential candidates. She said she speaks about the importance of civics and civic engagement anywhere she can, because the United States is a country where the laws are created by the people, not by dictators or kings.

“We make the law — we decide what the laws are and laws can change,” Rendell said.

Mark Landry, who teaches fifth grade in Claremont, was one of the teachers who participated in the workshop. He said that if people do not turn out to vote, the select few at the top get all of the funding and services. Landry works hard to try to instill this into his students.

“We’re concerned about science and math. It doesn’t mean anything if we don’t vote,” Landry said.

Jane Bard, the museum’s president and education director, said this is the first time they have hosted the workshop. She hopes to explore ways the museum can offer civics education to their attendees. The children’s museum brings thousands of families per year into downtown Dover to learn and explore. Monday’s workshop was organized by the New Hampshire Institute for Civics Education.

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