The new C-SPAN Classroom Web site (www.c-spanclassroom.org) for middle and high school civics and government teachers is making an impact. The free, standards-based video content, discussion questions and primary source materials, designed to bring U.S. government and civics to life in the classroom, are bringing classes to life, according to instructors.
“I use it at least once a week,” agrees Dan Fouts, government teacher at Maine West High School in Des Plaines, IL. “I access a short video clip and throw it up on the LCD projector and get the kids talking. And they do start talking.
“For example, I’m doing a unit on what are the most appropriate ways to protest in our society and I can lead off the discussion with a clip on Cindy Sheehan [the anti-war protester]. It gets the students engaged and stimulated.”
C-SPAN Classroom is a free membership service dedicated to support educators’ use of C-SPAN programming in their classes or for research. Teachers can visit the Web site to enroll in C-SPAN Classroom. The service has a membership of more than 18,000 educators who receive teaching guides for CSPAN programs and access to a tollfree hotline for viewing tips and classroom strategies.
“The new Web site harnesses the vast resources of C-SPAN’s archives and ongoing programming for teachers,” says Joanne Wheeler, C-SPAN’s Vice President of Education Relations. “C-SPAN Classroom is upping its long time commitment to teachers by providing rich content at no cost, completely copyright cleared for use in the classroom and linked to state and national standards, while focusing on subjects near and dear to C-SPAN’s corporate mission.”
Those subjects include such contemporary topics as the inside-baseball workings of government that CSPAN serves its viewers as part of its daily fare. It’s clearly helpful: recent studies illustrate the need for the enhanced classroom resources that CSPAN Classroom provides. A 2003 study commissioned by the National Conference of State Legislatures found that less than half of young people could identify their state’s governor and only 40 percent knew which political party controlled Congress. A IEA Civic Education Study found American students well below their international counterparts in knowledge about the role of periodic elections and the function of political parties.
Developed with a team of social studies teachers, c-spanclassroom.org features enhanced resources, a new design and improved navigation. The site’s primary content consists of hundreds of C-SPAN video clips organized into six major topic areas correlated with national and state standards, including: Principles of Government, U.S. Constitution, Legislative Branch, Executive Branch, Judicial Branch, and Political Participation. In consultation with an advisory board of classroomteachers, new clips are being culled from the network’s current programming and updated on the site every week.
“I was watching C-SPAN one day and was intrigued by a piece they did on the John Roberts’ Supreme Court hearings and wished I could show it to my students,” Fouts recalls. “I called the CSPAN offices and was delighted when they told me about new C-SPAN Classroom Web site. It’s easy to access, it’s extremely relevant, it’s well organized under titles that I use to teach, it’s top-grade quality and it’s free. Not to mention, it’s engaging for the students.”
The site is expanding weekly, adds C-SPAN’s Wheeler, which should please instructors. “I’m hoping that CSPAN Classroom will archive all of its videos,” adds Fouts, “because I’m actually building a curriculum around the site’s offerings.”
For more information, visit www.c-spanclassroom.org