VOICE (Violence-Prevention Outcomes in Civic Education)
VOICE is a year-long elementary social studies program created by the Constitutional Rights Foundation Chicago designed to increase academic achievement, foster peaceful resolution of conflict, and spark community service. VOICE combines law education, peer mediation and service learning to educate 4th grade through middle school students about our democratic government and offer ways to resolve conflicts non-violently. Research has shown the VOICE curriculum to be highly effective in helping students retain and use essential information and skills relating to government and to resolve conflict peacefully.
Through VOICE, students gain basic civic knowledge about how our government works and about their roles as citizens in our constitutional democracy. They practice creative problem-solving and cooperation, using math, science, and writing skills. They learn and practice peaceful ways to resolve conflict. They develop positive connections to their communities and healthy attitudes toward legitimate authority. VOICE provides students with authentic, multi-disciplinary opportunities to address issues in their schools and interact with police, attorneys, and other adults in their community.
VOICE is based on effective violence prevention strategies identified by youth development, delinquency prevention, and risk-and-resiliency research and research on instituting productive and lasting educational change. The 50-lesson curriculum helps students develop the cognitive and social skills critical to violence prevention while addressing grade-level appropriate content crafted to meet expectations for Illinois and individual school performance standards. As students learn traditional government and history content, they also learn how to mediate disputes, and they engage in a service learning project.
Developed in 1995 with support from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention of the United States Department of Justice, VOICE is implemented with the assistance of outside resource persons and a field experience, and is designed to complement the upper elementary grade social studies American government and U.S. history curriculum. VOICE underwent three years of field-testing and revision at pilot sites in the Chicago Public Schools and in District U-46, Illinois' second-largest school district centered in Elgin, and is now used by teachers and students in Alabama, Kansas, Minnesota, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, Vermont, and Wisconsin.