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Are you looking for a way to incorporate civics into your high school classroom? This learning resource connects the concept of informed civic agency to George Washington’s significance as a visionary for the nation’s future.  Through primary source analysis and a creative civics activity, this resource empowers students to see themselves as citizens with responsibilities to engage in civic participation and who have agency to research and collaboratively participate in civic disagreement.

Lesson Narrative (5Es)

This learning experience is inquiry-based and built on the 5E model. Students will be engaged by thinking about a group they care about and are involved in. They will then explore Washington’s Farewell Address and create an address of their own. They will explain by partaking in group discussion to evaluate their understanding of the content. Finally, learning can extend as students consider the Senate tradition of annually reading the Farwell Address.

  • This learning experience fits into one class session.
  • This learning experience integrates reading, writing, speaking, listening, social-emotional, and civics learning skills.


  • Ask students to think about a group of people; family, friends, team, group, activity or club they are a part of. It should be a group they care about.
    • What role do they play in that group?
    • What hopes or dreams do they have for that group in the future?


  • Read and analyze excerpts from George Washington’s Farewell Address. Look advice he gave to the US and think about why he may have given it.


  • Students will then write an “Address” of their own to the community they care about and name the challenges it is facing. Provide guidance of how the community should go forward.
  • Students should include a vision for what the community can offer others and the world in general.
  • Students then share and explain with classmates. What group did they choose to write to? What did they include in their address?


  • Students can read more and reflect on the Senate tradition of reading the Farewell Address out loud, which has been performed each year since 1862.
  • Since 1900, most of the appointed speakers have left a note in a leather-bound book with their name and a brief reflection on what the Address means.
    • Students could discuss this ritual and view the available recordings of the speech, as well as compare and contrast the notes that the speakers have left over time.
  • What note would the student write in the book if they had a chance to deliver the annual Address to the Senate?

Student Portal

Students can explore the timeline to learn more about George Washington as a National Symbol

Explore the Timeline

Civics Connections: Civic Participation and We the People

This lesson focuses on the ideas of Civic Participation and We the People, which have definitions within the Educating for American Democracy Framework. Here are the specific civic components that connect to this lesson:

9-12 Key Concept: Analyze leadership through past and present examples of change-makers. Examine definitions of citizenship.

Driving Questions:

History: CDQ1.4D. What are the opportunities and responsibilities of citizenship and civic agency in the 21st century?

Civics: CDQ1.4D. What opportunities and responsibilities do citizens have in the U.S. today? To what extent do these resemble or differ from those in the early U.S.?

Design Challenge 3: Simultaneously Celebrating & Critiquing Compromise

DC3.2. How do we help students make sense of the paradox that Americans continuously disagree about the ideal shape of self-government but also agree to preserve shared institutions?

Educating for American Democracy