Empowering the Next Generation to Embrace Civic Responsibility: Civic Season by Made By Us

We are in an era marked by a significant decline in civic engagement, especially among young people. A 2022 study from the American Historical Association found that knowing history is correlated to higher levels of civic engagement, but according to the Institute for Citizens and Scholars (formerly Woodrow Wilson Fellowship Foundation), only 27% of young people have basic knowledge of U.S. history. Another study found that only 16% of 18- to 29 year olds are proud to live in the United States. Educational institutions are struggling to address this issue. Younger Americans tend not to trust education officials to be politically neutral, and they often turn to entertainment sources like TikTok and YouTube for news and information.

Enter Made By Us’ Civic Season. Made By Us, a fiscally sponsored project of the Atlanta History Center, was founded on the belief that museums and other cultural institutions have credible expertise across American heritage and are well-positioned to serve as trustworthy, local hubs for connecting young people to history and heritage. Civic Season, which has been held from Juneteenth to the 4th of July since 2021, offers a nationwide experience at hundreds of institutions across the country to forge deeper connections between young adults and America’s cultural institutions and to fuel their civic engagement. Partner institutions include, among others, the Smithsonian Institution, Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, the Charles A. Wright Museum, Colonial Williamsburg, Historic Locust Grove, and many others.

At the heart of Civic Season is a series of events, ranging from trivia nights and new exhibits to “Slice of History” pizza parties. Program content is developed by ten fellows aged 18 to 30, who drive the program’s design and mobilize hundreds of cultural institutions, municipalities, and community groups to participate. Quizzes, filters, and an interactive guidebook enable participants to explore resources provided by leading historians and scholars. The program utilizes art, music and a variety of historical narratives to engage participants, and relies heavily on social media and other digital content through partnerships with TikTok, Teen Vogue, Rock the Vote, student athletes, and artists. Events and resources are designed to facilitate dialogue, foster collaboration, and inspire action, empowering participants to become more informed, engaged, and effective citizens.

One of the key principles of the Civic Season is inclusivity. Recognizing that traditional forms of civic engagement often exclude marginalized voices and communities, the organizers of Civic Season are committed to ensuring that everyone has a seat at the table. This means actively reaching out to underserved communities, providing resources and support to those who may face barriers to participation, and amplifying the voices of those who are often overlooked or ignored.

Civic Season 2024 launches on June 15. Americana awarded a grant to support Civic Season 2024 because engaging the next generation of Americans in the nation’s future could not be more critical. By fostering a sense of civic responsibility and empowerment, we anticipate that Civic Season will help to create a lasting legacy of active citizenship, one that will continue to inspire and mobilize young people long after the season has ended.


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