K-12 Student Design Challenge Awards

Some of the best ideas our students generate come from the creativity and innovation that is spurred when they are tasked with finding solutions to real problems or complex questions.

Their critical-thinking, collaboration, and creativity in this work is often astounding and uplifting. It should be captured and illustrated for the others to see and reflect upon. That is why we created the Educating for American Democracy K-12 Student Design Challenge Contest. We asked young artists across the country to create original artwork to represent their interpretation of one Design Challenge.

Explore the inspiring and thought-provoking artwork, organized by Design Challenge, below.

The design challenges and EAD framework are flexible and offer room for inquiry, a diversity of viewpoints, debate, tension, complexity, nuance, and disagreement. The artwork below is the students’ own interpretation of the design challenges, but they are not representative of the only way to interpret the design challenges. The artwork and thoughts are the student’s own and do not represent the views of EAD, EAD leadership, or EAD affiliates. 

My Artworks main center character is a young girl sitting at her desk, she represents students and kids who feel like their voices aren't heard or that people can't hear them. Behind her is a huge community of people who hear her and want to do something. They represent everyone that wants the change she wants. The words around her are representative of what she is feeling and doubts she faces worried that her voice and opinions aren't part of society. It shows that people hear her, that her voice is heard, and she has others supporting her. This relates to design challenge 1 because it illustrates the struggles that students face with their opinions in society. I think it shows how your opinion does matter and that it's heard.

Ruby Sadecki

Grade 8, Massachusetts

1st Place

This piece is a depiction of a civic action in which citizens are engaged in a peaceful protest to draw attention to the racial injustice that persists in American society. After participating in a Black Lives Matter march last summer, I became increasingly interested in learning more about the movement and seeking out ways that I could promote equality in my community. While many young people feel as if their voices cannot be heard, it is important to understand that we are an important part of promoting social change. While voting is an essential part of democracy, it is not the only thing that can be done to change the system.
All citizens have the right to peacefully assemble and to petition their government regardless of their age. Youth action can take the form that is shown in this painting and should be encouraged so that young people can see that their voices do matter.
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Madison Cunningham

Grade 12, Pennsylvania

2nd Place

The central theme of my painting is creating civically engaged kids and making school a democracy. This is to inform the school community to learn about the social issues of our time, and to learn about the government and the constitution. Teachers should understand that we can learn better when we think for ourselves, when we learn how to communicate with each other. When we learn how to draft bills, make speeches, voting, debates, etc it is a sign of democracy. In this endeavor, students want to think for themselves while teachers give us the structure and form, so that in the future we can change the world!

Naomi Teshome

Grade 9, Minnesota

3rd Place

This design is for design challenge 2, and depicts three children and their teacher working with an interactive map within a cylinder-shaped room whose walls are made by the American flag. The map is a visual of America composed of puzzle pieces - all pieces are essential in order for the outline of America to remain authentic and recognizable. The pieces are covered in symbols of different cultures, communities, and customs, and the children are currently exploring a purple piece in which a woman talks about her life, surrounded with personal items.
I drew this because in order for students to have a fully formed view of American life, they need to hear a diverse range of stories from those who live here. America is not the country of one main race or community with a few ‘others’ living among them, it is at its core a concoction of culture.
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Adi Acosta

Grade 8, Massachusetts

1st Place

This represents the multiple stories of our country. How there are so many different people with different experiences, and everyone's story is unique. I drew the face in each of the gaps between the lines as a different person to show how diverse and unique everyone is from each other. Then I added the LGBTQ+ flags overtop to represent the different sexualities and gender identities as well. Assumptions about people are unfair to those people, everyone of the same group isn't the same. Everyone is their own person and has their own stories.
Any many people may only know their story, but we need to look at different points of view and see more than our single story.
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Gretchen Curran

Grade 8, Massachusetts

2nd Place

In my piece, I drew faces of different people on puzzle pieces. This represents how everyone is part of the same big picture even though they look like individual pieces, and how every one person contributes to the story of America no matter how insignificant it seems.
The pieces of the puzzle, or in this case America’s story, may not look like they fit together but they eventually combine into one image or story. Even though you come from different backgrounds and have your own story you can realize sometimes that you share similar experiences with others and we all are just people after all.
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Anna Hsu

Grade 8, Massachusetts

3rd Place

I can learn about my culture and other people's culture by asking at school to the students. For example, I ask my friend Eliany of her culture. She is from Dominican Republic. People who live in countries or cities they share this story of their home.

Yenci Rodenzo

Grade 3, Massachusetts

1st Place: K-5 Category

In my abstract and mixed media piece, I wanted to focus on the feelings of frustration a person of color feels in the American education system, constantly being ignored and spoken over. While internally we know that we are complex individuals, hence the bright & bold colors in the face, with complex stories and experiences, we are always silenced and our struggles simplified.
America is further from the shiny land of opportunity many see it as, and while we will continue to strive for that vision everyday, we cannot do that by ignoring the other side of the story; the struggles of people of color and our voices being toned out. It can be hard to clear our heads of the idea of warped privilege, but our one way road to achieving that picture-perfect vision of democracy is through listening to people of color - the foundation of America.
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Alessandra Woo

Grade 8, Massachusetts

1st Place

There are people from both the left and right side that want to compromise on somethings but there are some who lack the responsibilities, and fear what can happen so they both are stuck choosing whether or not they want to cross that bridge, because no one knows if it can be good or bad when in reality there’s more things that can be helped and improved if we do compromise rather than just leaving everything the way it is.

Amanda Bird

Grade 12, Utah

2nd Place

Thinking together and coming up with solutions as a whole is an important part in preserving our democracy. My artwork reflects the idea of thinking together as a whole, but still being divided. There is common thread that connects all of our ideas, and when we compromise we have a bubbling idea that could help us to create a healthier democracy than the one we have.

Niamh Govender

Grade 8, Massachusetts

3rd Place

In this work, the hand writing ‘We The People’ represents who is writing our history. And it should be a mix of zealous patriots (represented by the American flag), the more cynical groups and everyone in between (represented with other colors). This ensures that we account for multiple perspectives of our nation's past.
There are ink stains on this version of our history but we should accept that these will remain permanent for all to see. Telling the truth about this country is not an act of treason. On the contrary, only when our country is credible can citizens learn to love it.
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Casey Kenreich

Grade 10, Maryland

1st Place

The design challenge that I chose was the fourth challenge, which talks about how we need to learn about America’s history by admitting where we have failed and celebrating the moments that are worth praising. The artwork that I have created represents a student looking at a map of the U.S. but instead of seeing just what it looks like on the outside, the student sees the bad and good ‘words’ that define our past.
In the center of the map are a collage of words that show the real history of the country, whether they are good or bad moments or concepts. The plastic wrap on top of the small collage represents how sometimes it’s not easy to see the real truth of what has happened in this country and these parts of our history can be ‘glossed over’. The ‘bad’ words are not as bold as the ‘good’ words to represent that they are more likely to be hidden as we can easily look over the dark moments and claim that ‘nothing bad happened’. The student looking at this map is thinking of what to do to make sure everyone knows about our country’s history so we can reflect on it and prevent those ‘bad’ words from happening again.
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Carina Szocik

Grade 8, Massachusetts

2nd Place

The artwork is illustrating a bridge breaking and a person hanging off a cliff. His friend comes to help him up. The bridge breaking is illustrating us starting to fall into cynicism and tip into adulation, and the friend helping him up is illustrating that together we can get ‘out of the chasm of cynicism and adulation’ and into civic honesty and reflective patriotism.

Ibrahim Dagher

Grade 8, Massachusetts

3rd Place

My piece, titled The Bigger Cage, shows a bird climbing out of an open cage with the shadows of bars falling across the scene. This piece represents black men and women being promised freedom only to be barred from their rights by Black Codes and Jim Crow laws. Yes, they are freed from slavery but only into a bigger cage, they can flap their wings a bit more but are trapped just the same.
The Bigger Cage fits into design challenge 5: Balancing Time and Theme. This piece represents a problem that still affects many Americans today. Teachers can use this to talk about how slavery and the laws that restricted African Americans after the emancipation of slavery still affect the lives of African Americans today. This can also help students ask important questions and think about how they can be a better person and help them notice and stop racism around them.
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Allison Findlay

Grade 8, Missouri

1st Place

American history needs to reflect world history. Teachers can help their students see that people from all over the world influence American history, including Indigenous peoples whose lands we stole, people forced into slavery, and those who have migrated to this land over centuries.
This is all part of America’s hard history and influences perspectives and decisions that are made today. My artwork is made out of fabric, representing my passion for sewing. I arranged it into four panels showing people originally distant and self-centered, holding on tight to their own pieces of the world, then eventually coming together for the good of everyone to have a more equitable world.
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Khaya Dryden-Peterson

Grade 8, Massachusetts

2nd Place

The different colors, Textures, and shapes represent how diverse and intricate our history is. The butterflies all around are how we can ‘fly’ and explore our way through this history and embrace it.

Audrey Hodgson

Grade 8, Massachusetts

3rd Place

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We the People

This theme explores the idea of “the people” as a political concept–not just a group of people who share a landscape but a group of people who share political ideals and institutions.

Read more about the theme in:

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Institutional & Social Transformation

This theme explores how social arrangements and conflicts have combined with political institutions to shape American life from the earliest colonial period to the present, investigates which moments of change have most defined the country, and builds understanding of how American political institutions and society changes.

Read more about the theme in:

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Contemporary Debates & Possibilities

This theme explores the contemporary terrain of civic participation and civic agency, investigating how historical narratives shape current political arguments, how values and information shape policy arguments, and how the American people continues to renew or remake itself in pursuit of fulfillment of the promise of constitutional democracy.

Read more about the theme in:

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Civic Participation

This theme explores the relationship between self-government and civic participation, drawing on the discipline of history to explore how citizens’ active engagement has mattered for American society and on the discipline of civics to explore the principles, values, habits, and skills that support productive engagement in a healthy, resilient constitutional democracy. This theme focuses attention on the overarching goal of engaging young people as civic participants and preparing them to assume that role successfully.

Read more about the theme in:

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Our Changing landscapes

This theme begins from the recognition that American civic experience is tied to a particular place, and explores the history of how the United States has come to develop the physical and geographical shape it has, the complex experiences of harm and benefit which that history has delivered to different portions of the American population, and the civics questions of how political communities form in the first place, become connected to specific places, and develop membership rules. The theme also takes up the question of our contemporary responsibility to the natural world.

Read more about the theme in:

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A New Government & Constitution

This theme explores the institutional history of the United States as well as the theoretical underpinnings of constitutional design.

Read more about the theme in:

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A People in the World

This theme explores the place of the U.S. and the American people in a global context, investigating key historical events in international affairs,and building understanding of the principles, values, and laws at stake in debates about America’s role in the world.

Read more about the theme in:

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The Seven Themes

The Seven Themes provide the organizational  framework for the Roadmap. They map out the knowledge, skills, and dispositions that students should be able to explore in order to be engaged in informed, authentic, and healthy civic participation. Importantly, they are neither standards nor curriculum, but rather a starting point for the design of standards, curricula, resources, and lessons. 

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Driving questions provide a glimpse into the types of inquiries that teachers can write and develop in support of in-depth civic learning. Think of them as a  starting point in your curricular design.

Learn more about inquiry-based learning in  the Pedagogy Companion.

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Sample guiding questions are designed to foster classroom discussion, and can be starting points for one or multiple lessons. It is important to note that the sample guiding questions provided in the Roadmap are NOT an exhaustive list of questions. There are many other great topics and questions that can be explored.

Learn more about inquiry-based learning in the Pedagogy Companion.

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The Seven Themes

The Seven Themes provide the organizational  framework for the Roadmap. They map out the knowledge, skills, and dispositions that students should be able to explore in order to be engaged in informed, authentic, and healthy civic participation. Importantly, they are neither standards nor curriculum, but rather a starting point for the design of standards, curricula, resources, and lessons. 

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The Five Design Challenges

America’s constitutional politics are rife with tensions and complexities. Our Design Challenges, which are arranged alongside our Themes, identify and clarify the most significant tensions that writers of standards, curricula, texts, lessons, and assessments will grapple with. In proactively recognizing and acknowledging these challenges, educators will help students better understand the complicated issues that arise in American history and civics.

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Motivating Agency, Sustaining the Republic

  • How can we help students understand the full context for their roles as civic participants without creating paralysis or a sense of the insignificance of their own agency in relation to the magnitude of our society, the globe, and shared challenges?
  • How can we help students become engaged citizens who also sustain civil disagreement, civic friendship, and thus American constitutional democracy?
  • How can we help students pursue civic action that is authentic, responsible, and informed?
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America’s Plural Yet Shared Story

  • How can we integrate the perspectives of Americans from all different backgrounds when narrating a history of the U.S. and explicating the content of the philosophical foundations of American constitutional democracy?
  • How can we do so consistently across all historical periods and conceptual content?
  • How can this more plural and more complete story of our history and foundations also be a common story, the shared inheritance of all Americans?
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Simultaneously Celebrating & Critiquing Compromise

  • How do we simultaneously teach the value and the danger of compromise for a free, diverse, and self-governing people?
  • How do we help students make sense of the paradox that Americans continuously disagree about the ideal shape of self-government but also agree to preserve shared institutions?
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Civic Honesty, Reflective Patriotism

  • How can we offer an account of U.S. constitutional democracy that is simultaneously honest about the wrongs of the past without falling into cynicism, and appreciative of the founding of the United States without tipping into adulation?
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Balancing the Concrete & the Abstract

  • How can we support instructors in helping students move between concrete, narrative, and chronological learning and thematic and abstract or conceptual learning?
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Each theme is supported by key concepts that map out the knowledge, skills, and dispositions students should be able to explore in order to be engaged in informed, authentic, and healthy civic participation. They are vertically spiraled and developed to apply to K—5 and 6—12. Importantly, they are not standards, but rather offer a vision for the integration of history and civics throughout grades K—12.

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Helping Students Participate

  • How can I learn to understand my role as a citizen even if I’m not old enough to take part in government? How can I get excited to solve challenges that seem too big to fix?
  • How can I learn how to work together with people whose opinions are different from my own?
  • How can I be inspired to want to take civic actions on my own?
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America’s Shared Story

  • How can I learn about the role of my culture and other cultures in American history?
  • How can I see that America’s story is shared by all?
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Thinking About Compromise

  • How can teachers teach the good and bad sides of compromise?
  • How can I make sense of Americans who believe in one government but disagree about what it should do?
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Honest Patriotism

  • How can I learn an honest story about America that admits failure and celebrates praise?
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Balancing Time & Theme

  • How can teachers help me connect historical events over time and themes?
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The Six Pedagogical Principles

 EAD teacher draws on six pedagogical principles that are connected sequentially.

Six Core Pedagogical Principles are part of our Pedagogy Companion. The Pedagogical Principles are designed to focus educators’ effort on techniques that best support the learning and development of student agency required of history and civic education.

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This resource aligns with the core pedagogical principle of:

EAD teachers commit to learn about and teach full and multifaceted historical and civic narratives. They appreciate student diversity and assume all students’ capacity for learning complex and rigorous content. EAD teachers focus on inclusion and equity in both content and approach as they spiral instruction across grade bands, increasing complexity and depth about relevant history and contemporary issues.

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This resource aligns with the core pedagogical principle of:

Growth Mindset and Capacity Building

EAD teachers have a growth mindset for themselves and their students, meaning that they engage in continuous self-reflection and cultivate self-knowledge. They learn and adopt content as well as practices that help all learners of diverse backgrounds reach excellence. EAD teachers need continuous and rigorous professional development (PD) and access to professional learning communities (PLCs) that offer peer support and mentoring opportunities, especially about content, pedagogical approaches, and instruction-embedded assessments.

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This resource aligns with the core pedagogical principle of:

Building an EAD-Ready Classroom and School

EAD teachers cultivate and sustain a learning environment by partnering with administrators, students, and families to conduct deep inquiry about the multifaceted stories of American constitutional democracy. They set expectations that all students know they belong and contribute to the classroom community. Students establish ownership and responsibility for their learning through mutual respect and an inclusive culture that enables students to engage courageously in rigorous discussion.

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This resource aligns with the core pedagogical principle of:

Inquiry as the Primary Mode for Learning

EAD teachers not only use the EAD Roadmap inquiry prompts as entry points to teaching full and complex content, but also cultivate students’ capacity to develop their own deep and critical inquiries about American history, civic life, and their identities and communities. They embrace these rigorous inquiries as a way to advance students’ historical and civic knowledge, and to connect that knowledge to themselves and their communities. They also help students cultivate empathy across differences and inquisitiveness to ask difficult questions, which are core to historical understanding and constructive civic participation.

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This resource aligns with the core pedagogical principle of:

Practice of Constitutional Democracy and Student Agency

EAD teachers use their content knowledge and classroom leadership to model our constitutional principle of “We the People” through democratic practices and promoting civic responsibilities, civil rights, and civic friendship in their classrooms. EAD teachers deepen students’ grasp of content and concepts by creating student opportunities to engage with real-world events and problem-solving about issues in their communities by taking informed action to create a more perfect union.

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This resource aligns with the core pedagogical principle of:

Assess, Reflect, and Improve

EAD teachers use assessments as a tool to ensure all students understand civics content and concepts and apply civics skills and agency. Students have the opportunity to reflect on their learning and give feedback to their teachers in higher-order thinking exercises that enhance as well as measure learning. EAD teachers analyze and utilize feedback and assessment for self-reflection and improving instruction.

X
This resource aligns with the core pedagogical principle of:
EAD teachers commit to learn about and teach full and multifaceted historical and civic narratives. They appreciate student diversity and assume all students’ capacity for learning complex and rigorous content. EAD teachers focus on inclusion and equity in both content and approach as they spiral instruction across grade bands, increasing complexity and depth about relevant history and contemporary issues.

X
This resource aligns with the core pedagogical principle of:

Growth Mindset and Capacity Building

EAD teachers have a growth mindset for themselves and their students, meaning that they engage in continuous self-reflection and cultivate self-knowledge. They learn and adopt content as well as practices that help all learners of diverse backgrounds reach excellence. EAD teachers need continuous and rigorous professional development (PD) and access to professional learning communities (PLCs) that offer peer support and mentoring opportunities, especially about content, pedagogical approaches, and instruction-embedded assessments.

X
This resource aligns with the core pedagogical principle of:

Building an EAD-Ready Classroom and School

EAD teachers cultivate and sustain a learning environment by partnering with administrators, students, and families to conduct deep inquiry about the multifaceted stories of American constitutional democracy. They set expectations that all students know they belong and contribute to the classroom community. Students establish ownership and responsibility for their learning through mutual respect and an inclusive culture that enables students to engage courageously in rigorous discussion.

X
This resource aligns with the core pedagogical principle of:

Inquiry as the Primary Mode for Learning

EAD teachers not only use the EAD Roadmap inquiry prompts as entry points to teaching full and complex content, but also cultivate students’ capacity to develop their own deep and critical inquiries about American history, civic life, and their identities and communities. They embrace these rigorous inquiries as a way to advance students’ historical and civic knowledge, and to connect that knowledge to themselves and their communities. They also help students cultivate empathy across differences and inquisitiveness to ask difficult questions, which are core to historical understanding and constructive civic participation.

X
This resource aligns with the core pedagogical principle of:

Practice of Constitutional Democracy and Student Agency

EAD teachers use their content knowledge and classroom leadership to model our constitutional principle of “We the People” through democratic practices and promoting civic responsibilities, civil rights, and civic friendship in their classrooms. EAD teachers deepen students’ grasp of content and concepts by creating student opportunities to engage with real-world events and problem-solving about issues in their communities by taking informed action to create a more perfect union.

X
This resource aligns with the core pedagogical principle of:

Assess, Reflect, and Improve

EAD teachers use assessments as a tool to ensure all students understand civics content and concepts and apply civics skills and agency. Students have the opportunity to reflect on their learning and give feedback to their teachers in higher-order thinking exercises that enhance as well as measure learning. EAD teachers analyze and utilize feedback and assessment for self-reflection and improving instruction.