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The SEMIS Coalition Community Forum is almost here!
June 1, 2015
Eastern Michigan University

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Partner Highlight:  The Spencer Foundation

A key piece of developing whole school approaches is the relationship between civic education and civic action across the disciplines.  The Spencer Foundation, based out of Chicago, Illinois, partners with institutions like University of Wisconsin, Madison researcher Connie Flannagan to research what skills, knowledge and disciplines are necessary for informed and reasoned civic action

The Foundation "aims to strengthen work that brings the tools and perspectives of contemporary moral and political philosophy to bear on concrete problems that arise in addressing problems of education practice and policy," according to their website on the New Civics Initiative, the branch of the Spencer Foundation dealing with data use and education improvement in civic education.  

Some key research on the aspects of learning especially conducive to action include the following:
  • Aspects of learning especially conducive to action
  • Motivations and psychological processes
  • Enabling environments and experiences for civic action

For more information on research concerning the New Civics Initiative, please visit:  

Civic Learning/Civic Action:  The State of the Field
Thanks to all the teachers who participated in the Spencer Grant!

For a full report on the results of research, see:  Spencer Foundation Report

“Exploration of the natural world begins in early childhood, flourishes in middle childhood, and continues in adolescence as a pleasure and a source of strength for social action.” - David Sobel
You asked and we delivered!  SEMIS has a new Tools for Teachers page that can allow for greater access to resources used at PD Days - like the great resources developed through the Spencer Foundation Grant:
  • Backwards Mapping Handout
  • Essential Question Generator
  • PBE Barometer Activity
  • Powerful Questions for Planning
More are on their way!  Please stay posted at

Developmental Patterns in Conceiving of the Commons

In partnership with the New Civic Initiative at the Spencer Foundation, SEMIS led a study over the course of the 2013-2014 school year  of 3 age groups of SEMIS students, before and after engaging in environmental service-learning projects.

This project explored the potential of place-based environmental stewardship education for developing the civic learning, commitments, and actions of students. Mixed-methods (surveys and interviews) were used with students from mid-elementary through high-school. The sample included students from urban, rural, and suburban communities, with a large percentage from ethnic minority and low-income families. Through a model of school-community partnerships, students identified local environmental issues impacting their communities, collected and analyzed data, took actions to address the problems, and presented their results in public venues with adults and peers and in interactions with governmental and non-governmental organizations. After participating in these learning-action efforts, students from diverse backgrounds and all age groups expressed an awareness of themselves as civic actors who, with others, could address public problems and effect change that benefited their communities.

 The goal of the study was to understand what indicators changed in student interviews after participating in SEMIS projects.  Areas of improvement after completing projects included:

1)  Social responsibility for shared environmental resources
2)  Environmental identity, belonging and connection to a larger non-human world
3)  Collective problem solving and action
4)  Collective efficacy
5)  Positive views of human beings
6)  Compassion for other people or species, or taking on the perspective of others
7)  Awareness of interdependent lives and decision in relation to others.

By exploring the civic potential of environmental learning, the project expanded the scope of the civic domain and introduced new arenas for research and practice that have not typically been central to civic education. In particular, because the model guiding the project focuses on the local environmental commons and emphasizes students’ capacities for action, students develop an identification with and attachment to their local community; an awareness of their interdependence with other people and species; and of their capacities for taking action on behalf of the local community. By focusing on the environmental commons that belong to everyone, students understand themselves as stakeholders whose civic actions affect the quality of life for others – today and in the future.

Copyright © 2015 Southeast Michigan Stewardship Coalition (SEMIS), All rights reserved.

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