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From the Deputy Publisher: Civics Test

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2021 Challenge winners the Malikians - CATHY RESMER ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • Cathy Resmer ©️ Seven Days
  • 2021 Challenge winners the Malikians

On Wednesday, January 6, my wife barged into my home office. "A mob has broken into the Capitol building," she announced with alarm.

I was immediately transfixed by the violence in Washington, D.C., and spent the rest of the day watching the live coverage and news analysis. As someone who cares deeply about politics and government, I couldn't tear myself away from the spectacle.

But at 7 p.m., I did: My son, Graham, and I had planned to play Virtual Vermont Trivia, hosted by the Vermont Historical Society, that evening. We sat down at the kitchen table with my laptop and joined 53 other groups also logged on to the Zoom event.

In an email, public programs manager Amanda Gustin said she had briefly considered canceling because of the crisis 500 miles away. But "I felt like people would appreciate a space to come together to learn about a place we all love so much," she wrote.

Indeed, it lifted my spirits to focus on questions about Vermont geography and place names. Which town was originally known as Carthage? Jay.

A "Hope" sign by Lienna Monte - CATHY RESMER ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • Cathy Resmer ©️ Seven Days
  • A "Hope" sign by Lienna Monte

Also exciting: I recognized some of the team names as participants in the Good Citizen Challenge, a youth civics project organized by Seven Days and our parenting publication, Kids VT.

The Challenge rewards kids for learning about their communities and for being Good Citizens. We launched it in 2018 with support from the Vermont Community Foundation, and it's evolved over the years to meet the needs of the moment.

For example, the At-Home Challenge, which began in December and ended in March, included more than 40 activities that kids and families could do at home or while following COVID-19 protocols, such as play a video game about political gerrymandering or deliver care packages to isolated seniors. Competing in Virtual Vermont Trivia was also on the list, available at goodcitizenvt.com.

Aria Leff of the Malikians with a note from a care package she sent - CATHY RESMER ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • Cathy Resmer ©️ Seven Days
  • Aria Leff of the Malikians with a note from a care package she sent

Seventy teams from across the state participated, including a group of 60 St. Albans teens and a pair of Springfield siblings. As the Challenge Master, I got an email every time one of them submitted an entry. After a snowstorm, I'd get a blizzard of submissions from kids who'd shoveled snow for their neighbors. On Tuesdays and Fridays, I'd hear from teams that listened to Gov. Phil Scott's COVID-19 press conferences. As Town Meeting Day approached, debate watching spiked in popularity.

We’ve collected some of our favorite At-Home Challenge entries in the April issue of Kids VT, inserted in this week’s paper. It includes a write-up about the team that completed the most activities — 586 of them, to be exact. That team, the Malikians, is a fourth-grade class from Champlain Elementary School in Burlington; teacher Aziza Malik inspired the name.

They listened to Vermont history podcasts, watched a Burlington School Board meeting, gathered food donations for a nearby Little Free Pantry, read newspapers and wrote a rap promoting Green Up Day on May 1 — "Pick up trash, do the math, helping each other is such a blast. Pick up trash, it's so fast, garbage will soon be part of the past."

If you're feeling anxious about American democracy, these Good Citizens offer glimmers of hope.

This article was originally published in Seven Days' monthly parenting magazine, Kids VT.