Proposal for New Elective Class

at Berkeley Springs High School (BSHS):

Civics Laboratory


From Merriam-Webster online dictionary,


v  Civics: a social science dealing with the rights and duties of citizens


v  Laboratory: a place providing opportunity for experimentation, observation, or practice in a field of study




1.            While nationwide voter turnout in the 2008 election was higher than it has been in 40 years at 61.6%, the state of West Virginia had the lowest voter turnout in the nation at 50.6% (“2008 Election Turnout Hit 40-Year High”,  Without high levels of citizen participation, democracy is at risk.


2.            The Partnership for 21st Century Skills describes a 21st Century Learning Environment as one that “Enables students to learn in relevant, real world 21st century contexts (e.g., through project-based or other applied work)” and “Supports expanded community and international involvement in learning, both face-to-face and online”.  (  Additionally, the Partnership lists civic literacy as one of the 21st Century Themes that must be developed in schools so that students are:


* Participating effectively in civic life through knowing how to stay informed and understanding governmental processes

* Exercising the rights and obligations of citizenship at local, state, national and global levels

* Understanding the local and global implications of civic decisions


Further, the Partnership lists the following as desired 21st Century Student Outcomes:


* Creativity and Innovation Skills

* Critical Thinking and Problem Solving Skills

* Communication and Collaboration Skills

* Information, Media and Technology Skills


      3.      The Civics Laboratory class addresses all of the needs described in items 1 and

                2 above.


Course Description:


Students will explore, create and develop real-world, hands-on solutions that contribute to the sustainability of democracy. 


1.            E-Government project:  The Community Connect Foundation, with funding from the Benedum Foundation, has provided Ms. Stotler with video and still photography equipment for students to create content for a statewide web portal designed to make local governments accessible to citizens.  Students will work with local government officials to obtain content that will help citizens understand and interact with local government.  In Morgan County, government entities with which students would coordinate would include all Morgan County elected officials, their offices and appointed boards, the Towns of Bath and Paw Paw, the circuit court system, and the Morgan County Board of Education.

2.            Community Board project: Currently, the BSHS Student Council is creating the framework for a project to place students on boards and committees within the community.  An independent study credit will be awarded to students who serve on boards for the duration of a school year and who meet the requirements established to obtain credit.

3.            Students will generate publicity for their projects with local media outlets to make sure the public is made aware of the opportunities for civic engagement that will be offered.  This will include writing articles for newspapers, seeking coverage on the Hagerstown NBC-25 TV news program, and speaking at meetings of community groups (Chamber of Commerce, Lions Club, church affiliated groups, etc.) and at school assemblies.

4.            Students will document the class’ activities using journals, video, website, or whatever media the class elects in order to show others what they have accomplished during the school year.

5.            Students will discuss and debate issues of civic concern, based on class activities and current events, employing techniques for discerning different points of view and drawing sound conclusions based on the arguments and evidence presented.




Students in the 10th, 11th, or 12th grade would be eligible to participate in this class, based on a recommendation from their previous Social Studies teacher.




Ideally, the Civics Laboratory class would work in collaboration with the New Media class, who would serve as the technical experts while the Civics Lab class would serve as the content experts.  Therefore, it would be extremely helpful for these 2 classes to be scheduled during the same period of the day.




Prepared by Kate Stotler at Berkeley Springs High School in participation in

the Morgan County’s E-Government Project.