“Collaborative Civic Engagement:A Multidisciplinary Approach to Teaching Democracy with Elementary and University Students”, Ann N. Crigler, Gerald Thomas Goodnight, Stephen Armstrong, and Aditi Ramesh
Civic engagement has been a hallmark of democratic practice since the beginnings of the
American republic. The collaboration of citizens in building communities forms the basis of
civic engagement and furnishes ongoing topics of research and teaching for political science. This
chapter examines a complex multi-institutional and multidisciplinary pilot project: University
of Southern California’s Penny Harvest. Our team of scholars and students creates a reflective,
experiential learning environment, based in the political science department that fosters civic
engagement in both undergraduate and elementary-level students. Political science students work
in conjunction with others from across the university and beyond to build an experience that
employs philanthropy as a tool for youth to discuss issues and learn about resources that can
help to address community needs. At every level, the program practices collaborative civic engagement;
as such, it evolves dynamically and organically over time. Stakeholders shift and adopt
new approaches as topics, interests, and opportunities change. This chapter discusses the elements
of the program, the collaborations and political science initiatives, and the initial evaluations.
The five-year effort shares Alexis de Tocqueville’s view of civic engagement that collaboration is
foundational to American democracy. We follow John Dewey’s injunction to match experience to
activity in order to cultivate informed citizens. Penny Harvest in Los Angeles strives to assemble
a space where everyone can work together successfully.
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