Usti nad Labem, Czech Republic, January 23–29, 2008

Strengthening Democracy: The Role of the Citizen

A Civitas partnership exchange, held in Usti nad Labem, Czech Republic, January 23-29, 2008 provided a cross-cultural professional development program in democracy education for high school government teachers from Colorado, Michigan, Slovakia and the Czech Republic.

Ivana Havlinova, Director, Civitas-CZ

School visits, field experiences and seminar sessions were organized to address these goals:

• To participate in a professional exchange about content and teaching strategies for preparing students for democratic citizenship;

• To evaluate significant turning points in the evolution of democracies in all three nations represented in this program;

• To compare democratic princip
les and practices in our respective nations.

Using Maps to Teach Democracy

Participants developed nation and state maps to show where they would take visitors to learn about the successes and challenges their nations or state has faced in the development of democracy.

Groups also explained a current controversial issue related to democracy in their nation or state.

Conceptualizing the "Road to Democracy"
Participants used the "Principles of Democracy" to create illustrations showing their perspectives on the evolution of democracy in each nation. Link to lesson: Democracy for All: (developed by Street Law, Inc.)

The Amazing Race

In this lesson, adapted from the popular TV show, cross-nation teams examined a variety of events depicting significant steps (forward and backward) toward fulfillment of democratic principles in the Czech Republic, Slovakia and the US.

Looking back at selected “snapshots” in each nation provided opportunities for rich discussion about the underlying principles of democracy. Participants also shared personal reflections and common experiences, enabling deeper understanding about the gains and setbacks of democracy in our respective nations.

Teaching Multi-Party Politics

Ivana Havlinova led the group in an election simulation for the lower house of the Czech Parliament. Participants developed campaign posters illustrating their party's core principles. The lively activity enabled US teachers to deepen their understanding of the Czech parliamentary system and coalition building and make contrasts to the two-party system in the US.

• Czech Social Democratic Party
• Civic Democratic Party
• Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia
• Christian Democratic Union - Czech People's Party
• Union of Liberty
• Civic Democratic Alliance
• Democratic Union


Visit to the Czech Senate

Our group met with Senator Martin Mejstrik, the youngest member of the Senate of the Czech Republic and a former Velvet Revolution student leader.

Senator Mejstrik explained to the group that his most important issue is to have Parliament pass a law banning propaganda of the communist party, including all communist symbols.

Classroom Visits: Jat-ní High School and Vina-ská Middle School

Terezin Internment Camp

Terezín was a former military fortress and garrison town in the Ústí nad Labem Region of the Czech Republic. During WWII, Jews from Czechoslovakia, Germany, Austria, the Netherlands and Denmark were relocated here. Though it was not an extermination camp, of the over 150,000 Jews who arrived there, about 33,000 died in the ghetto and 88,000 inhabitants were deported to Auschwitz and other extermination camps.