Ethnic Studies and Integrated Action Civics

The "Double Bubble" shows the interconnection between study of history and student action

How can Integrated Action Civics support the exploration of Ethnic Studies?

The intersection between Ethnic Studies and Integrated Action Civics is very deep. Understanding identity and intersectionality, examining systems of oppression, visioning for hope, empowering and celebrating youth and their communities, and integrating understandings of resistance and change are integral to both.  

The change-analysis strategies presented in this section are being used by Ethnic Studies educators to deepen and focus discussion of these foundational concepts and themes in Ethnic Studies (narratives…). Especially valuable is the IAC model that integrates the skills and disposition of civic action throughout the curriculum. In the case of Ethnic Studies, this approach helps students envision and engage in social change (YPAR) without waiting until the end of the course. See the sample course with integrated IAC strategies below.

Learn more about the Integrated Action Civics framework.


Cultivate empathy, community actualization, cultural perpetuity, self-worth, self-determination, and the holistic well-being of all participants, especially Native People/s and Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC); …

Connect ourselves to past and contemporary social movements that struggle for social justice and an equitable and democratic society; and conceptualize, imagine, and build new possibilities for a post-racist, post-systemic racism society that promotes collective narratives of transformative resistance, critical hope, and radical healing.

- California Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum, Chapter 1

Power Flower - Intersectionality graphic

Identity and Intersectionality

How do we support students’ exploration of self, identity, community and worldview? 

Students' growth, learning, and development of their identity and values, are heavily influenced by their positionality and experiences in their community and society. These strategies can help students grapple with these complex issues and processes. 

IAC STRATEGIES - Identity and Intersectionality

  • Power Flower - How do different identities or attributes of a group confer or limit their power? 
  • Values Inventory - What values stem from our identity and ideology that help us navigate our world?
  • Worldview - Who am I? How did my family, community, culture and experiences shape me and my beliefs?
  • Identifying Stakeholders - Who is involved, directly or indirectly, in an event, policy or problem?
Cause  Consequence graphic organizer

Systems of Oppression

How do we reveal, explore and understand historical and contemporary institutions and systems of oppression?

Before change is possible, we need to understand the systems and forces that challenge our students and their communities ability to truly thrive. This requires examining the underlying root causes and the web of consequences of an issue. Beyond simple binaries of power, students need to analyze the nuances of how power is expressed and where it resides. These strategies can help students explore these complex topics:

IAC STRATEGIES - Systems of Oppression

  • Problem Analysis - How do we understand the complex web of causes and consequences?
  • Cheatsheet for Critical Historical Inquiry - How can probing questions help reveal critical understandings about an issue and spark historical thinking and investigation?
  • Expressions of Power - How do those with power maintain their power and exert their influence? How do those interested in change find and exert their power?
  • Faces of Power - How visible is the power that affects us?
  • Locations of Power - Where does power to effect change reside? Where are there opportunities to have an impact?
Visioning Justice - Activity Organizer

Critical Hope & Empowerment

How do we move past a self-constricted sense of possibility, and instead freedom-dream a vision for a just future? 

Too often, our sense of what is possible is constricted and limited by our immersion in our society as it is - we’re not encouraged to think beyond our day to day reality. These strategies, on the other hand, are designed to help students expand their sense of what is possible and encourage expansive visioning of a just society.

IAC STRATEGIES - Critical Hope & Empowerment

  • Visioning Justice - What are the features of a just society? How does ours compare?

  • Justice Manifesto - How have others articulated justice?  What do I believe? 

  • Framework for Empowerment (& Student-facing reflection) - What are the skills and dispositions of an empowered student? What scaffolds can support this growth?

Ethnic Studies Integration Chart

Healing, Resistance & Action Civics (YPAR)

How can we support student self-empowerment and agency to act on social issues that are important to them and their communities? 

A central tenet of Ethnic Studies is student empowerment and action. 

Visioning new possibilities for healing breeds hope while studying systems of oppression. And providing concrete tools for change-making empowers students to move from hope to action.

Ideally these understandings and tools are provided throughout an Ethnic Studies course so that student healing and resistance can be an ongoing process without waiting until a YPAR project at the end of the course. 

IAC STRATEGIES - Healing, Resistance & Civic Action

Integrated Action Civics strategies shown on a course map

Ethnic Studies Course Map - Integrating IAC

Integrated Action Civics strategies can offer powerful lenses in the exploration of Ethnic Studies concepts and content. These can support both student exploration of identity as well as some of the historical investigation that are a part of an Ethnic Studies course.

The Sample Ethnic Studies / US History Course Map illustrates some of the possible locations in an Ethnic Studies course where IAC strategies could be applied. It is based on a year-long A-G, “A” certified combined Ethnic Studies and US History course developed by Ricky Aguirre, Boynton High School, San Jose. You would need to adapt it to your course.