Five Websites That Teach Children About Government

Children can begin to learn about government in their first experience with education suggests Chip Flowers; that is, during preschool and kindergarten, and it can continue through high school. Much of this learning can be augmented by visiting some useful websites on the subject. Objective, interesting and ‘just the facts, ma’am’ but fun sorts of websites that are geared to hold a child’s imagination on the abstract concept of self-governing of a nation are not as easy to find as you may think.

Congress for Children

This website is colorful, interactive and entertaining. It has everything that a child would want in learning materials, and presents it in a manner that doesn’t feel like actually learning. That’s always a plus when dealing with children. Each branch of government has its own section, as well as historical information on the fight for independence and the framing of the Constitution. There are activities to choose from and a ‘show what you know’ link at the end of each section that provides a wrap-up activity for the lesson. There’s even a quiz section to let children demonstrate how much they’ve learned.

Ben’s Guide to U.S. Government for Kids

The U.S. Government Printing Office is behind this website, and it is a treasure trove of information. There are three sections, divided into age groups for levels apprentice (ages 4-8), journeyperson (ages 9-13) and master (ages 14+). The home page is colorful and cheery, with a Ben Franklin avatar to direct visitors. The site includes links to games for all ages, library resources and ‘learning adventures’ that further break down the main topics into easily learned, manageable chunks of information for each age grouping.

H.I.P Pocket Change Games

Don’t let the name of this website fool you. This is a product of the U.S. Mint and it covers far more than the nation’s currency. The “Branches of Power” game is awesome! It is guaranteed to hold a child’s attention and teach the principles of democracy without the child even realizing it.

There are links to multiple games in various topics, all of which will fascinate children of diverse ages.

This site’s catch phrase is “A safe place to learn and play.”  It has sections based on grade level: k-5 and 6-8. There’s also a section for teachers and one for parents. There are multiple links for exploring how government works and biographies of U.S. presidents. The site is easy to navigate and the graphics are colorful and easy to follow.

Explore the Election: How Government Works

This site is included here because of the interactive games it offers. These games are geared more toward higher grade level students, in the range of fifth to ninth. The game “You’re the President” is particularly challenging. The newspaper mock-up that can be printed at the end is a deal maker for this site!  There are links to explanations of how government works, and the games allow the learning to be applied to governing scenarios. The “Interview with Ben Franklin” is also quite entertaining. Anytime learning can take place under the guise of a game, a child’s attention will be captivated.

Five Organizations Helping Create Tomorrow’s Leaders

Unemployment. Inequality. Global warming. The youth of today face a bleak future thinks Chip Flowers — from economic meltdowns and political problems to environmental crises and social conflicts. They’re victims of messes created before their time, but they will be the ones responsible for cleaning them up. The five organizations below are providing future generations with the tools to overcome today’s worsening issues. With their help and help from similar organizations—there’s hope.

Tomorrow’s Leaders Today (TLT)

This California-based organization teaches area high school juniors that they can become leaders, as well as productive members of their community, through TLT’s programs in leadership, career readiness and community participation.

Teens learn about local businesses, government and nonprofits by exploring how their city operates. In the Career Readiness Program, they are taught the crucial skills needed to succeed in a 21st century workplace. The Youth Empowerment Council provides an avenue for youth to be involved in local government, as well as giving them an opportunity to teach elementary and middle school students about civil engagement.

An impressive 90 percent of TLT’s graduates go on to college, and 75 percent of them go on to volunteer in their communities.

Girls For A Change (GFC)

GFC is an international organization that empowers girls to create change through connecting with adult women coaches. This organization gives young women the confidence to speak up, realize their full potential, become leaders and make a real difference.

The Girl Action Teams are free after-school programs, often in low-income communities, where approximately 10 girls and two coaches meet to tackle issues faced in their community, as well as design, fund and implement solutions to these problems. Some examples of these projects include organizing a rally to end sexual assault and violence against women, creating a public service announcement against child abuse, and raising awareness and providing resources for immigrant education.

The traveling Change Your World Trainings teaches over 2,500 girls per year what social change really is, while providing examples from a diverse group of leaders.

Environmental Youth Alliance (EYA)

The EYA believes that “the environment is at the core of everything we are and everything we do.” This Vancouver-based non-profit charity has been connecting urban youth since 1991 to the magic of the natural world, while fostering community and building leadership skills.

The EYA accomplishes its mission through food gardening, pollinator awareness, urban forest skill building, horticulture therapy and nature observation programs. Through educational programming, children are given the opportunity to connect with nature through sight, touch and taste.

One of the programs takes place at the BC Children’s and Women’s Hospital, where a tucked away garden is having a positive and therapeutic effect on the health of patients. Patients and their families have gardened and harvested fruit, vegetables, herbs and flowers.

The Power of Hope (POH)

One way to spread a message of change is through art. You cannot discount art’s ability to enrich lives and give children an outlet to express themselves.

POH helps empower teens from diverse cultures and socioeconomic backgrounds through their art camps, retreats and workshops. POH’s learning programs take many forms, but they all value self-awareness, leadership, community and social change.

Teens age 14 to 18 can participate in summer camp, where artists and activists teach how to make a difference in the world. The Art of Leadership program is a leadership training program focused on leading groups and organizing events using the arts. During a five-day retreat, Hip Hop Hope brings youth together to collaborate on an inspiring hip-hop CD and have their voices heard.

Youth for Technology Foundation (YTF)

We live in a global, digital age, and technology will only become more important in the future, being employed to solve many problems. YTF is an international nonprofit that brings education, training and technology to youth in low-income U.S. communities, as well as developing nations.

YTF Academy is comprised of four programs—Tech Kids, Tech Teens, Tech Communities and Tech Enhancements. These programs emphasize participation, creativity, and developing critical thinking and problem solving skills. Over 1.4 million people have benefited from YTF. The businesses started by youth and women who completed the YFT Academy courses help sustain local economies.  

Youth Financial Education Is a Priority for Chip Flowers

Like all state treasurers, former Delaware State Treasurer Chip Flowers had a responsibility to improve the financial strength of the state he served — from the macroeconomic conditions that ensure strong, stable communities to the “micro,” household-level concerns that affect individual and family decision-making. During his tenure, he was fortunate to be able to leverage a powerful program called Financial Football — the fruit of a partnership between Visa, the National Football League, various state treasuries and other organizations — to advance this goal.

Chip Flowers: a vision for better financial education

Growing up in a military family, Flowers was fortunate enough to have parents who educated him about the value of a dollar. But his own experience taught him that not every child is so fortunate. Using these life-lessons, he resolved to provide as many kids as possible with the same invaluable opportunities that he enjoyed in his youth. Thanks to Financial Football, he was able to achieve this goal as Delaware State Treasurer. In fact, due to the interactive, online nature of Financial Football, he in some ways exceeded it, reaching children and parents far beyond the slender borders of his home state.

What’s Financial Football?

For former Treasurer Flowers, the Financial Football story began in 2013, when the Delaware State Treasury, Visa and representatives from the Baltimore Ravens — sorry, Eagles fans — announced the launch of the program in Delaware.

The release that accompanied the announcement described Financial Football as “a free educational video game and classroom curriculum” that awards yardage and touchdowns to students who correctly answer questions about personal finance. By redirecting kids who get the wrong answers, the game steadily builds financial know-how without sacrificing the thrills of a hard-fought game of pigskin.

According to the release, Flowers was able to get every middle and high school in Delaware, plus a who’s-who of community organizations and social charities, to sign on to the initiative. This achievement put Financial Football in the hands of tens of thousands of children across the state — many of whom don’t have access to the educational opportunities that Treasurer Flowers enjoyed as a child.

Education really can improve outcomes

Financial Football is part of Visa’s Practical Money Skills program, a comprehensive personal finance education initiative that has achieved stunning results during its short life span. Components of Practical Money Skills, including Financial Football, are now available to millions of students in a majority of U.S. states. Smartphone and tablet apps make programs more accessible to on-the-go students, and innovative state treasurers like Chip Flowers are continually experimenting with new initiatives to complement them.

These initiatives are making a real difference. In Delaware, for instance, Flowers integrated Visa’s programming into the state’s Prosperity Portal, a comprehensive database of easy-to-understand educational material for kids and adults. Anecdotal evidence from schools and community organizations suggests that the Prosperity Portal has boosted kids’ financial literacy and improved retention. Will other state treasurers follow Flowers’s lead? Stay tuned.