Civics Ed and Social-Emotional Learning Today, A Stronger Democracy Tomorrow

With SEL, civics education becomes more than just content knowledge; it becomes an investment in a healthier democracy and the young people who’ll inherit it.

By iThrive Games
May 20, 2021

A new report by the National Academy of Education, titled Educating for Civic Reasoning and Discourse, states that while content knowledge about our government's structure is important, so are the more subtle aspects that prepare us to participate responsibly in democracy.

"Also of crucial importance is the development of dispositions to value the exploration of complex issues, to consider multiple points of view, to weigh evidence and to empathize with others. So is the development of the ability to reason about moral and ethical issues rooted in basic democratic values. Such moral and ethical issues are often embedded in our democratic decision-making," writes Carol D. Lee, president-elect of the National Academy of Education, in a recent Washington Post article. 


At iThrive Games, we wholeheartedly agree, and we have created iThrive Sim scenarios for the classrooms where students work to build these skills. Responsible decision making is central to participation in democracy, from choosing whom to vote for to choosing how to engage during times of community and societal change. We have seen evidence over the last year regarding the importance of these skills, as the nation has contended with addressing systemic racism and police brutality, navigating the pandemic, and managing the fallout from the January 6th insurrection.

Our civics role-playing simulations are designed to support the development of the dispositions Ms. Lee writes about in the passage above. Core to the learning objectives of all three of our role playing simulations are the social and emotional learning competencies of responsible decision-making and self-awareness. 

We create experiences, such as our Leading Through Crisis scenario, in which youth role-play civic engagement by doing the following:

  • Practicing making high-stakes decisions with far-reaching consequences under time pressure.
  • Demonstrating self-management while under stress.
  • Collaborating with others who have different immediate goals.
  • Practicing clear communication.
  • Summarizing a decision-making approach, including exploring pros and cons for a set of choices and thinking about the impact of including or omitting the perspectives of different individuals and groups.

We believe that the decisions we make impact not only ourselves, but others, and our community. Our hope is that civics role playing simulations such as ours will help prepare teens to practice civic reasoning and discourse in the way we will need to do in order to create the future we want.

Click here to learn how to bring an iThrive Sim virtual field trip to your classroom.