What's My Civic Responsibility? (11th Grade)

9, 10, 11, 12

The learners define and explain the importance of civic engagement and responsible citizenship. They explore the reasons why people may hesitate to become involved in solving problems and consider ways in which they can be "part of the solution" rather than a "part of the problem." 

PrintOne 50-60 minute class period

The learner will:

  • identify some of the issues and problems evident in their world.
  • determine what it means to be a responsible citizen and identify ways that civic engagement demonstrates it.
  • articulate an understanding of why people hesitate to become involved in problem resolution.
  • determine what it means, and ways to be, a "part of the solution" rather than "part of the problem."
Put four “table coverings” (large sheets of butcher paper) in locations around the room.  Place one of the following headings on each “table covering”

The service event (What did we actually do?),
The Feelings (What were some of the thoughts/emotions that we had?),
The Impact (What do we think were the results/impacts of our involvement?),
The Improvement (What could be done to make this more successful next time?).

Assign each student to one of four groups giving each group a color marker and a starting “table covering”.  Have the students, in their groups, respond to the prompts written on their starting “table covering”.  (NOTE: Each group is to use the same color marker to record their thoughts and ideas on each “table covering”.)  After 2-5 minutes, have the students rotate clockwise to the next “table covering” with their marker in hand.  They are to first read what the first group wrote before writing their response to the prompt.  After 2-5 minutes the rotation continues until all of the groups have been to each table and have returned to their originally assigned table to read all the comments made by the other groups.  Depending on time, a classroom discussion could conclude this activity or it can be just as effective as a reflection activity without further discussion. 


  1. Anticipatory Set: As the learners are entering the classroom, have the song "Where is the Love?" by the Black-Eyed Peas playing in the back ground. As the learners settle in replay the song challenging them to identify the purpose of the song as well as the kinds of problems and solutions the song suggests.

  2. Have the learners share what they perceive as some of the problems that exist in their world today. Are they the same as those identified in “Where is the Love?” or are there different/additional problems?

  3. Have the learners share what the song is suggesting as a way(s) to address these problems. Should the solution(s) to the problems we face today be similar or different from what is recommended in the song?

  4. Ask the learners whose responsibility it is to address these problems and work toward solution(s), leading them to conclude that everyone who is concerned needs to be a part of the solution.

  5. Place Sydney Harris’s quote on the display board “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re a part of the problem” and have the learners share what they think Mr. Harris is implying, and if they agree with the quote.

  6. Define Civic Engagement as “A person’s connections with the life of their communities.” Ask the learners how the nature of a person's "connection" to their community makes available opportunities to help resolve community problems or to create more problems?

  7. Have learners brainstorm a list of problems in their community (school or larger community) that they particularly care about. (Teacher Note: This may require bringing in newspapers or having the learners look on-line for local issues.)

  8. Next to each identified problem place a plus sign representing a learner who was or is actively involved in helping to resolve the problem. Discuss what kinds of actions the learners have taken in the past (perhaps through participation inservice events) and how it demonstrates responsible citizenship.

  9. Discuss common reasons/excuses why people are not civically engaged (lack of knowledge, lack of time, not knowing what to do, feeling that they cannot make a difference, mistrust of politicians, etc.).

  10. Conclude this lesson by having the learners consider what the result of civic disengagement by any generation might be and by asking students to brainstorm ways that they could become involved in helping to resolve a problem in their community or school.


Learner particiaption in the classroom discussion will form the basis for the assessment of this lesson.

Cross Curriculum 

Students use social media to encourage people to be involved in community, sharing from their perspective what responsible citizenship means.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 05. Philanthropy and Government
      1. Benchmark HS.2 Discuss civic virtue and its role in democracy.
      2. Benchmark HS.8 Explain how a robust civil-society sector supports civil society.
    2. Standard PCS 07. Skills of Civic Engagement
      1. Benchmark HS.3 Participate in acts of democratic citizenship in the community, state or nation, such as petitioning authority, advocating, voting, group problem solving, mock trials or classroom governance and elections.