By Marilyn Odendahl

The Indiana Citizen

December 8, 2023

As Indiana educators prepare to teach the new required semester of sixth-grade civics, the Indiana Bar Foundation has released a comprehensive series of resources and classroom materials about the foundations and functions of government and the role of citizens.

Best of all, it is available to teachers across Indiana for free.

The materials include lesson plans, PowerPoint presentations, videos, critical-thinking exercises, vocabulary guides, and small-group activity worksheets as well as biographies and short histories. All of the materials are organized by the 17 Indiana academic standards with which they are most closely aligned.

The information and resources can be found on the Indiana Bar Foundation’s website.

“The Foundation is proud to be a leader and partner in providing teachers and school communities with ready-to-use sixth-grade civics lesson plans and related teaching materials,” Charles Dunlap, Indiana Bar Foundation president and CEO, said in a press release. “This is the first semester of the middle school civics class and we want to do all we can to provide teachers and their students with relevant and quality information.”

In 2021, the Indiana General Assembly passed House Bill 1384 which required Indiana middle schools to teach one semester of civics, starting in the 2023-2024 school year. The bill’s author, former Republican Rep. Anthony Cook, introduced his measure by stressing the importance of offering focused instructional time on civics alone to middle school students.

“Recent times and events have shaken and tested our democratic standards and practices,” Cook said in January 2021. “And it’s our duty to work hard to keep and reinforce our democratic principles and to train our students to understand and embrace our form of government.”

The Indiana Department of Education developed the academic standards for the new civics course. At the end of the semester, according to the IDOE, students should be able to “explain major principles, values, and institutions of constitutional government and citizenship, which are based on the founding documents of the United States, and how the three branches of government share and check power within our federal system of government.”

The new resources from the Bar Foundation were developed with input from Indiana teachers and are rooted in the Bar Foundation’s “We the People: the Citizen and the Constitution” curriculum.

In the lessons, the students will learn about three branches of government and their functions, the individual rights guaranteed by the Bill of Rights, voting and citizenship. As part of the curriculum, the students will explore the preamble of the Constitution, put themselves in a fictional congresswoman’s shoes and debate a bill, read about Shays’ Rebellion, and develop a campaign strategy to run for a local public office.

Educators with questions about the sixth-grade civics resources should contact Indiana Bar Foundation director of civic education Tim Kalgreen (tkalgreen@inbarfoundation.org).

Dwight Adams, a freelance editor and writer based in Indianapolis, edited this article. He is a former content editor, copy editor and digital producer at The Indianapolis Star and IndyStar.com, and worked as a planner for other newspapers, including the Louisville Courier Journal. 

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