Since it’s inception in 2013, the Citizenship Challenge has become a signature offering and is the premier experiential learning experience for 4th and 5th graders in the Commonwealth.

The challenge is an essay contest providing students with the opportunity to express themselves regarding a current issue facing our democracy.

Citizenship Challenge Logo

The 2023 Citizenship Challenge:

The First Amendment in the Bill of Rights in the American Constitution guarantees individual rights and is a foundation for life in the United States.

In your own words, explain the amendment, its importance to Americans, and indicate which freedom you think is most important and why.

Who Can Enter?

The Challenge is open to 4th and 5th grade classes enrolled in public, private, or parochial school, or home study programs from Philadelphia to the Capitol Region.

Individuals and our Classroom teams are asked to write an essay that addresses their point of view on the assigned issue. Teams take one position and defend their argument in a concise written document of a minimum of 300 words.

The contest is drawn from PA Civics standards relating to principles and documents of government; rights and responsibilities of citizens; and information on how government works.

Annual Prizes

  • GRAND PRIZE (1) of $1,000: The first place school will receive a check to be used toward a program that promotes civics learning and engagement across the student body.
  • RUNNER-UP PRIZES (4) of $500: Each of the runner-up schools will receive a check to be used toward a program that promotes civics learning and engagement across the student body.

How to Enter?

The deadline for submissions is December 1, 2023. Classrooms should submit their entry in an essay form and may include a supplemental PowerPoint or video. Essays should be a minimum of 300 words. Essays should be double-spaced using Times New Roman 12pt. Essays should include a cover sheet with the following information:

School Name
Grade Level
Teacher’s Name
Teacher’s Email Address
School Phone Number
Class Size

Essays need to be submitted by midnight on December 1, 2023 to or mailed to

The Rendell Center for Civics and Civic Engagement
Citizenship Challenge
P.O. Box 1033
Berwyn, PA 19312.

Once your entry has been submitted, you will receive confirmation that the judging committee has received your submission.

Judging Criteria

The essays will be judged on the four areas of Focus, Content Development, Organization and Style. Each area will be worth 25 points.

If you have any questions about your submission, please contact us at the email above or by calling The Rendell Center for Civics and Civic Engagement at 484-568-3910.


The finals will be a creative opportunity and each team will have three (3) minutes to do a presentation on the winning essay. Each presentation should be more than just a reading of the essay. Teams could”

      • Write a scene
      • Prepare a song
      • Do an interview
      • Create a rap
      • Develop a commercial
      • Think of your own, creative idea

After your group’s 3-minute presentation, the team of moderators, including Former Governor Edward G. Rendell and Judge Marjorie O. Rendell will ask each team a few questions about the issue. Teams will also have an opportunity to tour the National Constitution Center.

St. Bernadette Student
Students act out their essay in a class skit
Students holding protest signs

2023 Citizenship Challenge Lesson Plan

Ideas for Teachers

View a video of the last Challenge Finals