Teaching About Local Politics


Based on public opinion polls, more Americans trust their local government than they do their federal government. In terms of political action, however, national politics often receives more focus and media attention than local politics. Yet politics at a local level affects people’s day-to-day lives more often than they realize. Thus, knowledge of local politics is necessary to enact meaningful change that can positively impact people on a micro level. Teaching students about local politics will not only inform them, but it can also empower them to become civic leaders within their own communities. An interest in local politics can also develop into a deeper understanding of politics and policy on a national level, as well as how the two intersect with each other.


There are various resources on teaching about local politics from different angles. For example, teachers can present the aspects and processes of local politics with a focus on how they affect the community where students and teachers live. There are also lessons that are action-oriented, asking students how they can get involved in their communities to enact local political change. 

Lesson Plans

  1. Monitoring the Midterms: Down-ballot Voting and the role of local and state elections: This PBS NewsHour lesson plan focuses on drawing the connection between local politics and its impact (both direct and indirect) on students’ lives. It contains a short video (“Hot Tips to Rock the Ballot”), along with activities where students analyze a voter’s guide for a local election. An extension activity asks them to create their own political campaign, either for individuals on the local ballot or a ballot measure they support. 
  2. Three Levels of Government: Vote Smart helps students distinguish between different levels of government by understanding how they’re interconnected and how they derive their power. There’s an activity in the lesson plan that specifically asks them to think about their own local government. 
    • What is a Special Interest Group?: Vote Smart also has a short lesson plan focused on defining special interest groups and their role in local government. Educators may find that this resource could be combined with activities from the “Three Levels of Government” lesson plan.
  3. What Do People Want from Politicians?: An Exercise in Information Gathering: American Documentary (AmDoc) focuses on local government and how it directly impacts communities. Activities include watching a film, followed by student research and assessment. Students should feel encouraged to explore political participation and overall civic engagement.


  1. Ten Reasons Why We Should Pay Attention to Local Politics: US Represented addresses the significant role local elections play in our daily lives as well as how being more involved in local politics allows people to exercise their democratic freedoms and feel as if their voices are being heard. It also shares how change through local politics is more possible than we realize.
  2. Voting for mayor is more important than voting for president: The Hill focuses on the significance of local elections and leadership. It highlights how local politics impact federal policy, and how local elections can result in more people feeling empowered by having their voices heard more often than just every four years.
  3. If It’s Controversial, Why Teach it? This article written by Mary Soley discusses ways to engage students and bring controversial current events and local and global political issues to the classroom in a productive manner. She also explains the long-term benefits and learning outcomes of addressing current events and civic engagement in the classroom.  
  4. Teaching For Civic Engagement: As a teacher himself, Matt Coley discusses the role civic engagement plays in not just the classroom but school at large. He shares his own personal experiences and the ways he engages his students to put civic engagement into action.  
  5. Candidates of color are shaking up small-town politics across Oregon: Street Roots highlights LGBTQ+ people and BIPOC who are running for city council. Each individual shares what they hope to achieve and why running for local government is important to them. This article would make a great reading activity for students or as a  complement to the above PBS NewsHour or AmDoc lesson plans.

Informational Sites

  1. Political Socialization: This Lumen course provides educators with an understanding of how we obtain our political viewpoints of the world. This information could be useful for teachers wary of bringing more controversial and partisan local issues into the classroom. This would also help high school students think about their political background and the social interactions which have influenced them. 
  2. Local Politics: Ballotpedia is an interactive site that provides information on local politics in every state. It also includes information on municipal, school board, judicial, local ballot measure, and recall elections.


Teaching about local politics can encourage students to consider the direct differences they can make in their own backyard. They can also learn how local politics impacts policy and intersects with national politics. Finally, bringing local politics into the classroom is a great way to show students that they do not have to wait every four years to see change in their communities; they themselves can become agents of change.

Additional Resources

  1. The Value of Role-Play in Teaching Politics: This article from Edutopia gives useful tips on how to have students engage in politics critically and in a neutral manner. The author suggests role-play as a means to facilitate classroom discussion about politics that is engaging yet unbiased.
  2. How Do I Talk to My Students About Politics? The author of this Edmentum article discusses strategies for engaging with students about the upcoming 2020 Election (as well as other elections). These tips have elementary, middle, and high school students in mind, and are meant to help anyone teaching politics consider what ground rules to set as well as how to talk about politics objectively.
  3. Connect your students to local sources: This TEDEd article focuses on how to connect students to local resources and get them engaged with their communities. It provides tips on ways to get students involved so they can learn how their activism can play out in local and national politics.