Since 2006, 41 Illinois high schools have successfully completed a school-wide civic assessment and been named as Democracy Schools.
“This validates all of the hard work PRHS does to prepare our students for life beyond high school -- not just in terms of academics, but in terms of becoming citizens. We're very proud of this recognition,” said Dr. Steve Koch, Prairie Ridge High School principal.
Democracy School recognition began as a recommendation of the Illinois Civic Mission Coalition in 2004 and is supported by the Robert R. McCormick Foundation. The process of becoming a Democracy School entails a robust audit of current practices not only in Social Science, but in the culture of the building overall. Upon doing the audit, it became obvious that teachers beyond Social Science consistently find ways to integrate civic education into their classrooms.
“Nearly all subjects find ways to make students understand their role in the world and, therefore, teach civics. For example, Physics has adopted a deliberation procedure that teaches students proper ways to engage in civil discourse. Industry and Careers has had students present in front of the McHenry County Board. Math has adopted a Social/Emotional curriculum in which students learn more about the impact of their actions,” said John Pellikan, International Studies Division Leader.
Prairie Ridge students are encouraged to volunteer in their communities and nearly all Prairie Ridge students are registered to vote by the time they graduate.
Dr. Steve Koch, John Pellikan, Kristin Glover, Kait Sanford, Kurt Wagner, Bob Boldwyn, Bill Walker, and Curt Wadlington were part of the leadership team at Prairie Ridge that focused on this initiative.
The Democracy School recognition process is a way to celebrate the great things that Prairie Ridge does to teach civics, this was an opportunity to identify ways to do it even better. As a result of this process, PRHS has begun a "Democracy is a verb" campaign in which the students are exposed to this concept in a number of ways. PRHS plans to expand on this campaign by beginning a civics club called Lyceum which will expose students to guest speakers, civic debates and deliberations, and volunteer opportunities.
“Not only do these citizens need to be informed about the world, they need to understand their role in it. It is vital for our students to learn how to actively engage with each other in a productive manner so they can contribute to the world in a positive way,” said Pellikan.