Youth Leadership Initiative

The Youth Leadership Initiative at the University of Virginia Center for Politics is dedicated to increasing civic engagement by providing teachers with the best civics education materials and programs. Research shows that quality civics education programs are essential to creating lifelong citizenship and YLI programs empower students to take responsibility for our democracy. YLI believes that, “Politics is a Good Thing!”

Featured Resources

Media Literacy: Making Sense of the 24/7 News Cycle

A free press is essential to the success of a democracy. As the media has evolved over time to include radio, television, internet and now smart phones and social media apps, the ability in “being capable to read them” needs examining. This lesson guides students through analysis of social media posts, the definition of terms relevant to the media, and provides tools for identifying quality sources for examination of current political issues. This lesson accompanies the Talking Turkey: Taking the ‘Dis’ Out of Civil Discourse program as well as YLI and American Evolution’s First Freedom Wall.

The Bill of Rights

In this lesson, students will be introduced to the Bill of Rights. Students will be asked to illustrate those rights in order to demonstrate an understanding of the ways in which our Constitution protects the citizens of the United States. Students will also be able to determine how the Constitution affects the daily life of Americans.

Amending the Constitution: Why Change?

The U.S. Constitution, though it serves as the firm foundation for our system of government, incorporates a process for change and flexibility. This lesson allows students to investigate, analyze and simulate the amendment process that allows the Constitution to remain an evolving document as envisioned by the Framers.

Redistricting: The Case of the Curious Gerrymander Part I and II

Do voters pick their elected officials or do the elected officials select their voters? This lesson introduces the concept of redistricting as vaguely defined by the Constitution and asks participants to assess the effectiveness of that definition in light of current Supreme Court cases and evidence from past elections. Students will interpret maps, look at data, and experiment with various redistricting options.

Talking Turkey: Social Justice and Civil Disobedience

Individuals participate in civil disobedience to nonviolently show their disapproval of policies, customs, and ideas, and for the purpose of achieving social justice. This tradition of standing up to injustice has been practiced throughout American history.

Political Ideology in America: Bumper Sticker Politics

Americans love to personalize their vehicles in a way you will not see in many other countries. This lesson explores political ideology by analyzing data on automobile purchases and bumper stickers. Students will learn generalizations about conservatives, liberals, democrats, republicans, libertarians, socialists and appreciate the American custom of advertising political thought in public.

Constitutional Compromise Game

The Constitutional Compromise Game was designed specifically for teachers who don’t know what to do on Constitution Day. The game combines the skills of discourse, debate and compromise that were essential to the creation of the Constitution. Students work independently and in groups to solve Constitutional challenges and ratify the Constitution. This is a great activity for teachers who do not teach government or civics but need to satisfy the Constitution Day requirement.

Constitution Day: Lunch with James Madison

This twenty-six minute film features seven high school and middle school aged students sharing lunch and discussing the Constitution with President James Madison. YLI went back to fall of 1814- just after the end of the War of 1812 to question the fourth president about constitutional challenges that faced his presidency. Lunch consisted of period dishes that would have been served at Montpelier, home of the Madisons.

The YLI E-Congress Legislative Simulation

Looking for an interactive way to teach about the legislative branch? The Youth Leadership Initiative’s E-Congress program allows students to learn about Congress by writing original legislation and following it through the lawmaking process.

Democracy Corps: A Complete Service Learning Program

Learn about American democracy while serving your community. Serve your community while learning about the responsibilities of American democracy. YLI’s Democracy Corps brings your civics lessons to the community while instilling life- long civic engagement in your students.