The Democratic Knowledge Project (DKP K-12) is a K-12 civic education provider based at the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University. We offer curriculum development resources, professional development workshops for educators, and assessment tools and services—all in support of education for constitutional democracy.
The DKP K-12 initiative originally co-designed a year-long Grade 8 Civics Course, “Civic Engagement in Our Democracy” in collaboration with the History and Social Studies Department and 8th grade educators in the Cambridge Public Schools in 2019. We subsequently collaborated with over 38 educators in 15 Massachusetts districts (including Cambridge) in the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 school years to implement and provide input on revision of subsequent iterations of that curriculum. The curriculum is evaluated by our research team, and iteratively re-designed via partnerships between the DKP team and educators.
The DKP-Cambridge Grade 8 Civics Curriculum: “Civic Engagement in Our Democracy”
A Declaration of Independence video game (produced by Amplify)
The Ten Questions for Change-makers Reflection and Action Framework for Action Civics and A Set of Action Civics Case Study Exemplars
- Workshops at Harvard University
- Massachusetts Library System Professional Development Opportunities for Youth Librarians
- In-district trainings
- In-school trainings
- Curricular co-design services
Instructional Coaching support
- Assessment tools to accompany the Grade 8 Curriculum
- Consulting services for school, district, and state level assessment and accountability frameworks
The DKP originated in 2008 as a research lab at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey. Principal Investigator and then Institute faculty member Danielle Allen focused her lab on three key areas:
- The Declaration of Independence, the American founding, and American political thought and institutions;
- The impact of new media and digital technologies on youth civic development; and
- Assessment in the humanities and liberal arts.
Since the majority of instructors and practitioners in these domains understand their pedagogy to have a civic purpose, this assessment work quickly evolved in the direction of assessment for civic education. In 2015, Allen moved to Harvard and brought her lab with her.
Over time, the DKP began to develop resources for teachers. In order to know if what we were building had any value, we also built networks of teacher-leaders to tell us what was useful and to help guide our resource development. This led us to build a co-design practice for curricular development where we partner with educators. Our teacher networks also grew into educator professional development communities, and we grew into a professional development and coaching provider.
In February 2018, the DKP decided to make a full pivot to add a formal implementation arm to our basic research practice. The faculty advisory committee of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics endorsed this development as a formal initiative of the Ethics Center. We launched as a civic ed provider in parallel to the development and passage of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ 2018 History and Social Studies Framework. The Democratic Knowledge Project has worked to identify, strengthen, and disseminate the bodies of knowledge, skills, and capacities that democratic citizens need in order to succeed at operating their democracy.
Most recently, the Democratic Knowledge Project has evolved into a larger platform, the Democratic Knowledge Project Design Studio. The DKP Design Studio is a platform that supports innovative ethics and civics learning initiatives, originating all across the university, that are dedicated to teaching people how to think through and work collectively on hard issues. We serve as a hub for faculty-led efforts to work with partners to co-design and implement innovative ethics and civic education curricula, educator professional development offerings, assessment tools, and policy frameworks. The Design Studio now supports the Democratic Knowledge Project K-12 civic education work, for which Allen is a faculty advisor. Meira Levinson (Professor of Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and EJSCE faculty committee member) is stepping into the role as Faculty Director for the DKP Design Studio, succeeding Allen, the Founding Director.
How to Work with Us
If you’d like to explore a partnership with the Democratic Knowledge Project K-12 initiative, please contact the DKP’s Strategic Initiatives Project Officer, Katie Giles (firstname.lastname@example.org). As a first step, we will set up a needs assessment conversation so that we can learn more about the needs of your district, school, and classroom, and so that you can learn more about what we can offer. We will then follow up with a proposal development process in order to establish a formal partnership. Once appropriate decision-makers in your district or school have signed off on the proposal, we can get to work.
You can read more about the DKP here: https://www.democraticknowledgeproject.org/