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The Art of the Possible

Found in: social studies; 3-5; 6-8

The Art of the Possible: An Everyday Guide to Politics by Edward Keenan and Julie McLaughlin (2015) (63 pages, and available at or for FREE at your local library)

This illustrated introduction for students in grades 4-8 observes that though most of us will not be professional politicians, all of us are, in a sense, politicians. We use political skills in our daily lives and have since we were children. The youngest students, for example, practice politics every time they divvy up tasks to complete a small group activity. Nine chapters explore aspects of politics: who needs it, how do we decide and who gets to decide, how to make strong arguments, why conflict (good and bad), what are political parties, and more. In a especially timely section this election season, Chapter Six examines the downside of conflict, polarization. The author states that when those who hold different views are viewed as enemies, politics pushes people apart rather than pulling them together. Margin bubbles and case studies provide details to illustrate and support points made. A glossary is included.

The resources below elaborate ideas presented in the book:

  • We the Civics Kids (National Constitution Center) offers the new Civics in Literature initiative with 8 lessons designed to enhance 4th grade civics education through children’s literature and historical texts. Book lists are provided. Teachers can download individual lessons or the entire curriculum as zip files. (72.2 MB) The first lesson (10.8 MB,) has students examine contributions such as foods, language and celebrations brought by immigrants to the United States.
  • Presidential Candidate Debates provides tools and activities to help students (5-8) learn about candidates and analyze what they and the media say. Curriculum and resources are aligned with the Common Core and North Carolina Standards. Debate Watch PDF, 1.4 MB, 25 pgs) can be downloaded. One activity, Check the Facts, ( PDF, 87.5 KB, 1 pg) provides links to four Internet tools students can use to verify debate statements. Another, 5 Tips for Being an Active, Informed Voter ( PDF, 139 KB, 1 pg) students research candidates, their offices, and issues or choose an issue important to them and research candidate views on that issue. The parent website GenerationNation offers many civics-related activities and resources.


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