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Education for Sustainable Democracy

Author: Brett Levy

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This show explores how we can prepare the next generation for informed civic engagement, environmental stewardship, and the development of a more just and peaceful world. Host Brett Levy is a researcher of civic and environmental education and an associate professor at the University at Albany, State University of New York. Episodes feature interviews with leaders, innovators, and scholars in civic and environmental education. You’ll hear about new classroom-based and online practices that generate students’ involvement in public issues, youth-adult partnerships that improve communities, what research tells us about how to broaden young people’s engagement in environmental issues, and more. Please subscribe and tell a friend about the show. For information about upcoming episodes, guests, and more, please visit Thank you!
24 Episodes
Will the federal government support a comprehensive civic education bill? The Civics Secures Democracy Act is a Congressional proposal to  support civic education with about one billion dollars annually over five years. Currently the bill has sponsors from both major parties, but it is not without detractors. In this episode, Cat McDonald, the lead lobbyist for the bill, tells us about the bill's content, how likely it is to pass, and the challenges that lie ahead for this proposed legislation. We also discuss the history of the federal government’s support for civic education – and how this plan is different from what's come before. Resources on the Civics Secures Democracy Act:CivXNow Coalition WebsiteCivics Secures Democracy Act Text (32 pages)Ask Questions or Get Involved in CSD (Contact Form)About Catriona McDonaldESD Podcast Resources:Education for Sustainable Democracy SiteBrett's Open Access Research ArticlesEducation for Sustainable Democracy Facebook Page (Please Like!)Support the show (
How can technology enhance students' engagement in classroom learning? When are technologies helpful, and when are they harmful? In this episode, I talk to Dr. Dan Krutka, associate professor of social studies education at the University of North Texas. Dan's research sits at the intersection of technology, education, and democracy. We discuss how teachers can decide which technologies would strengthen their teaching or whether technologies would even be helpful at all. We also discuss many specific online tools and how they can be useful for enhancing student engagement and learning. In our conversation, Dan touches on a variety of other issues, as well, such as how to teach effectively in online learning environments when students are home during COVID lockdowns. This month marks the first anniversary of Education for Sustainable Democracy. Thank you for your support over the past year!Links Related to this Episode:Dan Krutka's HomepagePICRAT Model for Tech Integration in Teacher Ed (CITE Journal)Glenn Wiebe's Blog - Technology in Social Studies Ed Teacher Resources:Padlet Site (digital creation tool)DocsTeach Site (primary sources & activities)Chronicling America (historical newspapers)Smithsonian Learning Labs (documents, recordings, images, & more)The Redistricting Game (simulation about gerrymandering)ESD Podcast Resources:Education for Sustainable Democracy SiteBrett's Open Access Research ArticlesEducation for Sustainable Democracy Facebook Page (Please Like!)Support the show (
This podcast turns one year old this October! Happy anniversary, and thanks for your support! New episodes are in the works, so please stay tuned. As you know, I try to release a new show towards the beginning of each month, and there are some good ones coming up, including shows on technology for the social studies classroom, civically engaged districts, and proposed federal legislation to support civic learning. As we celebrate this first anniversary milestone, I'm hoping to continue expanding the show's reach. Could you please help me spread the word about the show? (We have no publicity wing, so you're it! Consider this a form of civic engagement. :)Below are four ways you can help. If you could do one or two of them, I'd greatly appreciate it! 1. Rate the show in your podcast app. (Five stars would be great!) More good ratings will help push the show out to new potential listeners!2. "Like" the show's Facebook Page by clicking here. 3. Share your favorite episode (or the show as a whole) with a friend, colleague, or family member. You can do this by finding the share button in your podcast app (usually an arrow) or by sending a link directly to recipients. Here you can find links to individual episodes and a link to the show's website that you can cut-and-paste into an email or text message.  4. Make a small donation to the show on Patreon. This will help me pay for web hosting, mastering, and technology for the show. Also, with enough support, I can hire a sound editor. If someone helps me with editing, I can produce more shows for you all! (I plan to upload exclusive content for all Patreon supporters soon!)Thank you so much! You can email me anytime at Have a great day!Support the show (
This month, we'll observe the 20th anniversary of the attacks of September 11th, 2001. These events had many consequences that we see today, including the long war in Afghanistan. When these attacks occurred, today's k-12 students had not even been born. How should we help students understand 9/11? What should they learn about the causes and the effects of the attacks? How have curricula portrayed 9/11 and the "War on Terror"?Jeremy Stoddard, a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, has been researching curriculum and teaching about 9/11 since 2002. In our conversation, he describes what he and his colleagues have learned by analyzing textbooks and teacher surveys on these issues. Jeremy also tells us about a new set of free online resources that he co-designed for teaching about 9/11 and related issues, such as the PATRIOT Act and combating Islamophobia.Links Related to this EpisodeResources for Teaching about 9/11 & Related IssuesJeremy Stoddard's HomepagePBS Resources for Teaching about 9/11PBS Frontline: America after 9/11 (Aired 9/7/21)ESD Podcast ResourcesEducation for Sustainable Democracy Facebook Page (Please Like!)Education for Sustainable Democracy SiteBrett's Open Access Research ArticlesSupport the show (
How should film be used to teach about difficult social and historical issues? We all know that visual media can bring issues to life, but media also portray a limited perspective. How can educators leverage the power of film but also help students understand the limitations of these portrayals - and the limitations of the genre itself? Jeremy Stoddard is a professor in the department of curriculum and instruction at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and he has conducted research on media education, civic learning, and the history curriculum.  In our conversation, we discuss his research on how teachers use film in their classrooms, optimal methods for teaching students with and about film, innovations in educational media, and much more. Media Literacy Education Resources:British Film Institute's Teacher ResourcesAbout Virtual Holograms of Holocaust SurvivorsJeremy's Book: Teaching Difficult History through FilmAbout Jeremy Stoddard's Work:Jeremy Stoddard's Faculty PageJeremy's Media Ed Project: The Impact of Virtual InternshipsESD Podcast Resources:Please Support ESD by Donating on Patreon - Thanks! Education for Sustainable Democracy Facebook Page (Please Like!)Education for Sustainable Democracy SiteBrett's Open Access Research ArticlesESD Episode on the News Literacy Project, with John Silva and Miriam RomaisSupport the show (
This episode is Part 2 of Brett's conversation with John Silva and Miriam Romais of the News Literacy Project. In this segment of their discussion, they talk about how misinformation spreads  and how certain media literacy practices can help combat it. They also discuss the News Literacy Project’s free programs for teachers, plans for the future, and more.Related Links:Part 1 of Brett's Interview with John Silva and Miriam RomaisNews Literacy Project SiteAbout John SilvaAbout Miriam RomaisNorthwest Tree Octopus Site (Sample News Hoax)Education for Sustainable Democracy Facebook Page (Please Like!)Education for Sustainable Democracy SiteBrett's Open Access Research ArticlesPlease Support ESD by Donating on Patreon - Thanks! Support the show (
How can we help young people navigate our complex media landscape? The News Literacy Project (NLP) has been helping youth, educators, and the public become critical consumers of news and information for over a decade. In this episode, Brett talks to John Silva, NLP's director of education and training and Miriam Romais, NLP's senior manager of educator engagement. They discuss the importance of news media literacy and specific strategies for helping young people become wise consumers of information. Related Resources: News Literacy Project SiteAbout John SilvaAbout Miriam RomaisEducation for Sustainable Democracy Facebook Page (Please Like!)Education for Sustainable Democracy SiteBrett's Open Access Research Articles Please Support ESD by Donating on Patreon - Thanks! Support the show (
When teaching controversial issues, should teachers play it safe or take some risks? How much risk is too much? How do political and historical contexts affect how educators explore controversial issues in their classrooms? Should students be expected to share their perspectives on controversial issues? In Part 2 of Brett's interview with Judy Pace, Judy explains what her research taught her about how contextual factors affect educators' instruction about controversial issues. She also discusses the challenges involved in building classroom community and how to make teaching controversial issues more widespread. Judy's research and this podcast episode were supported by the Spencer Foundation, a non-profit organization that supports educational research.Links to Judy Pace's WorkJudy Pace's Website at USFJudy's Book - Hard Questions: Learning to Teach Controversial IssuesLinks to Other Related ResourcesEducation for Sustainable Democracy Website Education for Sustainable Democracy Facebook PageBrett Levy et al.'s Article & Framework for Guiding Classroom DiscussionsRelated ESD EpisodesJudy Pace Interview, Part 1: Learning to Teach Controversial IssuesProf. Diana Hess on Teaching Controversial IssuesProf. Wayne Journell on Modeling Political ToleranceSupport the show (
How do teacher educators prepare their students to teach  controversial issues in social studies, citizenship, and history? How does this process differ across countries with polarized political climates? What is "contained risk-taking," and why do teacher educators teach this approach? Judy Pace, professor of teacher education at the University of San Francisco, tells Brett what she learned by studying the pedagogy of four teacher educators in three countries - the US, England, and Northern Ireland. Her findings (detailed in her new book, Hard Questions: Learning to Teach Controversial Issues) provide nuanced insights about teacher education,  guiding instruction about controversial issues, and how national and historical contexts affect teaching. This is Part 1 of an extended interview with Judy Pace. Part 2 can be found in the RSS feed and at this link.Links to Judy Pace's WorkJudy Pace's Website at USFJudy's Book - Hard Questions: Learning to Teach Controversial IssuesLinks to Other Related ResourcesEducation for Sustainable Democracy Website Education for Sustainable Democracy Facebook PageBrett et al.'s Article & Framework for Guiding Classroom DiscussionsESD Episode featuring Prof. Diana Hess on Teaching Controversial IssuesESD Episode featuring Prof. Wayne Journell on Modeling Political ToleranceSupport the show (
In today’s political climate, how can teachers create safe spaces for discussing controversial public issues? How should they guide students to explore potentially emotion-laden current events, such as police shootings of unarmed African-Americans? And how can history teachers integrate current events into their curricula? Amber Joseph has been a public school social studies teacher in New York City for about a decade, and she currently teaches 8th grade history and civics at East Side Community School in Manhattan. She love her job and thinks a big part of it is helping her students navigate challenging issues, consider differing perspectives, and realize their potential as civic participants. In our conversation, she shares her views and experiences, including integrating history and civics instruction, teaching about the Black Lives Matter Movement, keeping it real with students, and what keeps her coming back to teach each year. Resources Related to this EpisodeWebinar on Discussing Controversial Issues in Classrooms, featuring Amber, Brett, & Others (Democracy Ready NY Coalition)Amber's Article on Pandemic Teaching (New York Review of Books)Brett's Article on Generating Dynamic Classroom Discussions (The Social Studies)Education for Sustainable Democracy SiteESD Facebook Page (Please like!)ESD Patreon Page (Small donations sustain this podcast. Thanks!)Related ESD EpisodesVoice from the Classroom: Teaching the Capitol Riot in a Politically Diverse High School (with Lauren Collet-Gildard, Arlington High School)Guiding Productive Political Discussions, with Diana Hess (University of Wisconsin-Madison)Teaching Elections & Modeling Political Tolerance, with Wayne Journell (University of North Carolina at Greensboro)Engagement & Equity in Civic Education, with Professor Jane Lo (Michigan State University)--Please Support ESD by Donating on Patreon - Thanks! 
What have recent events taught us about the type of civic education we need? Elizabeth Clay Roy, the new CEO of Generation Citizen, shares her vision for equitable, engaging civic education that is transformational for both youth and their communities - and that address current societal needs. She also highlights specific opportunities that could support this vision, including action civics programs, efforts to lower the voting age, and  proposed federal legislation on civic education (e.g., the Civics Secures Democracy Act). Resources Related to this Episode:About Elizabeth Clay RoyGeneration Citizen WebsiteProposed Federal Civic Education Legislation (press release & links for the Civics Secures Democracy Act)Equity in Civic Education White Paper"Let America Be America Again," by Langston HughesOther Relevant Resources:Education for Sustainable Democracy Facebook PageEducation for Sustainable Democracy WebsiteBrett's Paper on Youth-Adult PartnershipsBrett's Paper on Open-Minded Political EngagementRelated Episodes:Youth Exploring Issues & Taking Action, with Jill Bass (Mikva Challenge)Learning to Care for our Community Environments, with Ethan Lowenstein (Southeast Michigan Stewardship Coalition & Eastern Michigan University)Engagement & Equity in Civic Education, with Jane Lo (Michigan State University)Learning Politics by Doing Politics, with Scott Warren (Generation Citizen)Support the show (
How do we create environmental citizens? What can schools do to prepare the next generation to advocate for clean air and water, and how can educators develop instruction that inspires pro-environmental action? For two decades, Earth Force has been working with youth and teachers to create educational experiences that foster environmentally oriented civic participation, science learning. and community change. Alexis Thorbecke, a program manager at Earth Force, tells us about the organization's origins, programs, success stories, and challenges.Related Resource LinksEarth Force:Earth Force WebsiteEarth Force on TV News in DenverEarth Force Youtube ChannelOther Resources:Education for Sustainable Democracy Facebook PageEducation for Sustainable Democracy WebsiteBrett's Paper on Youth-Adult PartnershipsBrett's Paper on Environmental Political EngagementRelated Episodes:Learning to Care for our Community Environments, with Ethan Lowenstein (Southeast Michigan Stewardship Coalition & Eastern Michigan University)Learning Politics by Doing Politics, with Scott Warren (Generation Citizen)Support the show (
How can we help young people learn to care for their local communities and their natural environments?  Ethan Lowenstein believes that a big part of the answer is place-based education - a method that enables youth to explore, analyze, and begin to address local challenges.  Lowenstein is a professor at Eastern Michigan University and the director of the Southeast Michigan Stewardship (SEMIS) Coalition, which has built a broad network of educators and local organizations to foster place-based education in Michigan and beyond. In this episode, Lowenstein tells Brett about how the principles of place-based education have driven the SEMIS Coalition's sustained success, growth, and sense of community. Resources Related to this Episode:SEMIS:Southeast Michigan Stewardship (SEMIS) Coalition  SiteVideo Overview about SEMISArticle about Ethan LowensteinSEMIS in the NewsGreat Lakes Stewardship InitiativeConnecting:SEMIS Coalition Facebook PageEducation for Sustainable Democracy Facebook PageMore on Related Topics:ESD Episode on Mikva Challenge (mentioned by Ethan)Place-Based Education Videos, by EdutopiaBrett's Paper on Environmental Political ParticipationPlace-Based Teacher Preparation Program at Eastern Michigan UniversityAnd Of Course:Education for Sustainable Democracy Homepage
This episode features Lauren Collet-Gildard, a veteran history teacher in a politically diverse school in upstate New York. The day after the Capitol riot, she knew she had to teach her classes about these events and their significance.  Lauren describes how she helped students understand the insurrection and the democratic traditions that it violated. In addition, she tells Brett about her general approach to teaching about current events, including an emphasis on facts, source verification, and maintaining a positive, civil, welcoming environment. Resources Mentioned in this Episode:iCivics Infograph on Peaceful Power TransitionsEducation for Sustainable Democracy Facebook PageEducation for Sustainable Democracy SiteOther Related Resources:Six Civic Education Leaders on Teaching the Capitol RiotESD Episode on Teaching the Capitol Riot, with Prof. James HartwickESD Episode on Guiding Discussions of Controversial Issues, with Dean Diana Hess
How should educators teach about the riot at the U.S. Capitol? Should they remain unbiased? What facts and issues should they emphasize? In this episode, Brett talks to James Hartwick, a professor of social studies education at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. After discussing guiding principles for teaching about the Capitol riot, Dr. Hartwick describes several concrete strategies for engaging students in thoughtful, civil, information-rich discussions of these important issues.Resources:Education for Sustainable Democracy Facebook Page (listener discussion & sharing)PBS News Hour Guide for Teaching about the Insurrection (with short video)Mikva Challenge Lesson on Capitol Riot (student reflection & discussion)Schwarzenegger's Seven-Minute Video Condemning RiotGeneration Citizen's Resources on Teaching about the Capitol InsurrectionTeaching Resources on the Foundations for Democratic GovernmentPhotographic Images from the Capitol RiotHow Impeachment and the 25th Amendment WorkArticle by James and Brett Featuring Various Discussion StrategiesArticle by James and Brett on Structured Academic Controversy Menu of Discussion Strategies, by Facing History & OurselvesSupport the show (
What do students learn when they discuss controversial political issues? What are the benefits and limitations? How can teachers guide these discussions and maintain a positive classroom environment? In this episode, renowned social studies education scholar Diana Hess explores these questions, drawing on her two decades of research in classrooms. Hess is a professor and now dean at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Education and has written two award-winning books about how young people can learn about and productively discuss controversial political issues. In this episode, she describes her major research findings and what they mean for teachers, and she also considers how educators should help students understand some challenging current issues, such as claims of widespread voter fraud and Donald Trump’s refusal to concede or facilitate a smooth presidential transition.Resources Related to this Episode:Article on Diana HessThe Political Classroom, by Diana Hess and Paula McAvoyVideos of Teaching Discussion Skills (by CERG)Structured Academic Controversy Discussion ModelBrett's Article Featuring a Structured Academic ControversyESD Episode on Teaching the Capitol RiotESD Episode on Teaching Elections & Political ToleranceSupport the show (
Why did the framers of the U.S. Constitution not allow for the direct election of the president? What is the rationale for the Electoral College system, and how has it evolved? In this episode, four prominent historians and political scientists explain why the Constitution's authors designed a unique system for electing this country's chief executive. They also discuss the pros and cons of possible alternatives to the Electoral College.Profiles of Guests:Jack Rakove, Stanford UniversityThomas Patterson, Harvard UniversityKeith Whittington, Princeton UniversityHenry Brady, University of California, BerkeleyMore on the Electoral College:Alternatives to the Electoral CollegePresidents Who Lost the Popular VoteThe Proportional PlanNational Popular Vote CompactSupport the show (
How should educators teach about elections? How can they maximize student learning, foster engagement, and minimize overly heated exchanges among students? Professor Wayne Journell from the University of North Carolina, Greensboro, has conducted research on how high school teachers help students learn about elections. He describes how teachers can frame productive discussion of elections, integrate election-related content into other aspects of the curriculum, and model a tolerant attitudes towards different political perspectives. Dr. Journell also explains how educators can help students navigate our complex media landscape and avoid falling victim to misinformation.  Resources Related to this Episode:Article: Teaching the 2020 Election, by Wayne JournellWayne Journell's WebsiteTheory & Research in Social EducationTeaching Elections Website Support the show (
How can young people learn to engage actively and competently in public issues, including elections? What steps can educators take to support this type of learning? In this episode, Brett talks to Jill Bass, the Chief Education Officer of Mikva Challenge, a non-profit organization that develops and enacts engaging experiential civics curricula with thousands of youth each year. Jill describes the process of fostering young people's sense of empowerment and how Mikva Challenge helps to get youth involved in elections, even if they can't yet vote. Resources Mentioned in this Episode:Mikva Challenge WebsiteMikva Challenge Election HeadquartersEducation for Sustainable Democracy SiteSupport the show (
This mini-episode provides an overview of a new site that Brett Levy designed to help educators teach about the election: www.teachingelections.orgThe site includes downloadable lesson plans, research articles, and links to various other resources, with new content added every few days until Election Day. The lesson plans featured on the site were designed to be interactive, engaging, inquiry-oriented, and content-rich. For example, one lesson is framed with the simple but important question – Which Candidate Should We Elect and Why? – and has students explore their own political identities, the candidates’ positions on issues, and then which candidate better matches their own issue preferences. The site also contains a set of inquiry-based lessons related to the financing of political campaigns and a brand new lesson on how to have a fair election during a period of social distancing.   In addition to these lessons, the site has a page full of links to other great materials for learning about elections, including online election games from iCivics, lessons on voting rights from Generation Citizen, guidance on how to maintain a positive classroom environment during discussions of controversial issues, and an interactive electoral college map from the New York Times. And for those who love research, the site also has a page containing free, downloadable papers on what researchers have learned about teaching elections.  This is all available for free at Young people are hearing all sorts of things about the election, and this site provides materials to help them explore the facts in an engaging way.  If you’re an educator, please check it out, and if you like what you see, remember to share it with a colleague. The election's right around the corner, and this is a great time to generate young people's interest in public issues. Thanks!Support the show (
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