Five San Diego County schools have been recognized with this year’s Civic Learning Awards.
Co-sponsored by Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, the awards celebrate public schools’ efforts to engage K-12 students in civic learning and identify models that can be replicated in other schools.
Oak Grove Middle School, in the Jamul-Dulzura Union School District, and El Camino Creek Elementary and Flora Vista Elementary, both in the Encinitas Union School District, were among only six in the state – and the only schools in San Diego County – to receive Awards of Distinction. This is Oak Grove’s second year in a row receiving the honor, and the second year El Camino Creek received an award for civics learning.
"El Camino Creek and Flora Vista Elementary schools both provide a rich civics learning experience for all students," said Encinitas Union School District Superintendent Dr. Timothy Baird, explaining that both schools have created a replica court room where students hold mock trials and learn about the judicial process.
"This has been a wonderful tool to not only learn about how our government functions but also how to analyze problems, design fact based arguments, and deepen their understanding of information literacy."
Oak Grove Middle School Principal Liz Bystedt concurs.
“For years people have assumed that civic education is taught only in 8th grade social studies class. We have shown that to be unfounded,” she said. “Helping students to understand that to be a citizen of the United States and the world, they must become thinkers and questioners is always difficult and rewarding at the same time.”
Oak Grove engaged in a variety of civic learning projects for students in all grades, including “Voting Central,” “We the People” Constitution competition, and associated student body elections.
“It is exciting and validating to have received statewide recognition for our program for two years in a row,” Bystedt continued. “It reinforces to the staff, community, and students that we are making informed decisions in order to help our students to become better citizens and thinkers as they grow into adults. To be named one of the top schools in the state in any area is thrilling!”
San Diego Unified School District’s De Portola Middle School and Patrick Henry High School received Civic Learning Awards of Merit.
“When I first became a judge, I was surprised by how often I needed to explain the independent and impartial role of the courts,” Cantil-Sakauye said. “As Chief Justice, I decided to make civics and civic engagement a priority. The schools receiving these awards have made it a priority as well, and are helping their students become the future leaders and protectors of our democracy.”
“Civic education plays a critical role in preparing our youth to be active and informed community members, participate in our democracy, and make a difference in the world,” Torlakson added. “The number of schools taking part in these efforts is truly inspiring and exemplifies the importance we should place on civic education.”