Envoys was founded on the principle of fostering empathy, understanding and respect. This current academic year has been characterized by rising interest in contemporary political issues, though hindered by strands of misinformation and polarization.
We believe that informed and engaged citizenship remains a fundamental component of a thriving democracy. Understanding our democratic institutions and their functions, as well as the fundamental shared values in the American democratic experiment, remains more important than ever.
This virtual journey plunges students into the memorials, museums, and institutions in Washington, D.C. from the comfort and safety of home. Synchronous sessions featuring expert guest speakers, virtual tours, simulations, and design challenges are complemented by asynchronous assignments that prime students for a lifetime of civic engagement and critical inquiry.
Unfettered by weather, long lines, or traffic, we’ll move freely through the capitol city’s famous landmarks and museums, taking advantage of the virtual space to grant students more agency and a wide angle view on the issues.
Each program module features a balance of engaging, interactive synchronous content and innovative independent asynchronous assignments that students complete in school and in their own communities. All modules can be adjusted or expanded upon based on our partners’ learning goals.
Monuments & Memorials of the National Mall; Monuments that are Missing
In this module, students explore leaders, events, and landmarks of American history and democracy through the lens of monuments and memorials on the National Mall in Washington. As much an exploration of who and what is memorialized as it is a study of who and what are not, the module begins with a virtual tour of the National Mall with an expert guide, who introduces the historical events or leader memorialized there. Students work in small teams to complete competency-based challenges at each stop, working chronologically and geographically along the mall.
In part two of the module, students build on their in-depth knowledge of different monuments and memorials by creating a monument or memorial they feel is missing from the National Mall. In their groups, they create a physical model, site location, press release, and title of the monument to present in the final chapter of the module.
The Democratic Process
In this module, we actively look into the inner workings of what Churchill famously termed as “the worst form of government except for all the others that have been tried”. Students examine the institutions, systems, and procedures that comprise the American form of democracy. We consider the foundational tension between individual freedoms and societal good, analyzing how structural decisions made centuries ago impact the formalized procedures that underpin modern governmental processes.
We explore both the traditional three branches of government, as well as how the presence of public opinion, lobbyists, and voting acts to influence each branch to make decisions that represent the will of the people.
Understanding Media and Bias
This module will explore the role of the media in politics and our society, and help students build the skills necessary for recognizing bias, fact-checking the news and building a balanced information diet. Students will look back in time at the development of journalism in our country, identifying pivotal moments that made news media in the U.S. what it is today, and then take a hard look at the current state of media to better understand how polarization has intensified in our nation. Interviews with news media professionals and a deep-dive investigation into the contrasting picture painted by different media outlets help students understand how different platforms choose their content, and how language, images and perspective are employed to influence public opinion.
Students leave this model with a sharper radar for bias and fact-twisting, and a developed strategy for broadening their news diet and achieving a better understanding of the bigger picture.
NGOs and Non-Profits
Students are empowered to take an active role in the shaping of our nation’s future in this module covering civic engagement and citizenship. Candid discussion with young activists who are leading the next generation of change-makers will help students understand that one does not need to be of voting age in order to make a difference. Students are guided through reflective exercises to identify the issues they are most passionate about, and write personal statements laying out their opinions and feelings on the topic.
We then explore the various ways young people can participate in national conversations, taking cues from successful advocates in the issues participating students care most about. A mock debate wraps up the module, providing students with an understanding of the formal structure of debate, and allowing them to practice engaging in respectful, inquisitive dialogue with an interlocutor arguing against their opinion so that they are prepare to stand up, speak up, and lead gracefully.
Strength in Diversity
In this module, students examine some of the diverse groups of people that make up that land now defined as the United States of America. We expand on students’ existing knowledge of the disenfranchisement of Indigenous people as our nation was formed, and learn how certain lauded accomplishments, such as the establishment of our national parks, actually contributed to Indigenous land loss and cultural erasure.
Students also learn about the real hardships created by the decline of manufacturing in the USA, and how people’s lives were disrupted in very real ways. Through explorations and interviews, we learn how communities across America are continuing to develop methods of resiliency in the face of hardship.
Diplomat for a Day
We will pull back the curtain on the mysterious, removed worlds of diplomacy and foreign affairs to gain a broad understanding of what modern diplomacy is and the skills and qualities a diplomat needs to be successful, which are qualities that we all can develop. We will explore the history of diplomacy in the United States and how modern day diplomats advance foreign policy goals across the globe. With this foundation, we will participate in a hands-on diplomatic simulation, where we will take the roles of diplomatic stakeholders to negotiate a global crisis of migration or environmental issues.
We conclude with a debrief and discussion on how diplomacy’s 21st Century skills in evaluating multiple perspectives, communicating effectively, negotiating, and building common ground are applicable to so many areas of our lives.