iEngage Civics Camp Teaches Students How to be Engaged, Active CitizensJuly 27, 2017
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WACO, Texas (July 27, 2016) – More than one hundred fifth- through ninth-graders will learn about civics and provide a rich resource for Baylor faculty research during the annual Baylor University iEngage Summer Civics Institute. Now in its fifth year, running from July 31 - Aug. 4, the camp is hosted by Baylor School of Education through a grant from the Hatton W. Sumners Foundation.
iEngage is directed by education faculty members and camp co-founders Brooke Blevins, Ph.D., associate professor of curriculum and instruction, and Karon LeCompte, Ph.D., associate professor of curriculum and instruction.
Research published by the pair has demonstrated that children attending iEngage Summer Civics Institute enhance their understanding of community issues and the importance of civic responsibility.
“Following camp attendance, students demonstrated higher scores in their ability to organize a meeting, express their views in front of a group of people, write an opinion letter for the local newspaper, or contact an elected official,” Blevins said.
LeCompte said students are learning about their place in the community.
“Students indicated stronger agreement with statements such as ‘Being actively involved in the community is my responsibility’ and ‘In the next three years, I expect to be involved in improving my community,’” LeCompte said. “Students who attend iEngage understand that they have a voice now, and they don’t have to wait until adulthood to begin making a difference.”
The camp’s curriculum teaches children about civic action and political participation. Campers meet local civic leaders and office-holders before developing their own action plan for civic change. During the weeklong camp, they learn about the structure of government and other civic-related topics by playing digital games on iCivics.org.
This year’s iEngage will focus on civil discourse and engagement as a means to build consensus the co-founders said. Students will divide into groups, and each student will advocate for the community issue that they would like the group to address. Then the group must come to a consensus.
“To reach a consensus, everyone joins the discussion. Students will learn how to understand each of their individual perspectives and what it will take for everyone to agree,” LeCompte said. “They will learn about give and take; you don’t always get exactly what you want. But a group can find an option that’s acceptable to most.”
Blevins and LeCompte began their work with research and implementation of iCivics in Midway and Waco Independent School Districts. iCivics is a free online website founded by retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor that teaches civics concepts using educational games.
Blevins and LeCompte conduct pre- and post-surveys of each camper to monitor how their civics knowledge, skills and dispositions increase as a result of participation in the “action civics” experience. Through “action civics” students do and behave as citizens by engaging in a cycle of research, action and reflection about problems they care about personally.
“Not only does iEngage increase the participants’ civic knowledge, skills and propensity for action, it also impacts families and schools as the students share their enthusiasm with others,” Blevins said.
The iEngage program curriculum is furthering its impact by expanding to new locations. This summer marks the second year for the iEngage Summer Civics Institute at Texas Christian University, and another will launch soon at the University of Texas.
Published articles about the faculty pair’s ongoing work in civics education have appeared in academic journals including Social Studies and the Young Learner, Journal of Social Studies Research, Theory and Research in Social Education and The Social Studies.
iEngage will be held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., July 31 through Aug. 4, in Baylor University’s Marrs McLean Science Building, 1214 S. 4th St. The camp is free, and students receive T-shirts and a lunch through a grant provided by the Hatton W. Sumners Foundation.
Staffers at the camp include Waco area teachers, graduate students and undergraduate students from the School of Education, who gain valuable instructional experience, LeCompte said. Baylor students come from both the Department of Curriculum & Instruction and the Department of Educational Psychology (EDP). Inclusion of graduate students from EDP allows the program to be more responsive to any students with learning disabilities or other special needs, Blevins said.
“In an era when civics education is rarely taught in elementary schools, iEngage provides pre-service in-service teachers an opportunity to not only learn about powerful civics education curriculum, but to actually put it into practice with students. We hope the experience will increase their focus on citizenship education in their own classrooms,” Blevins said.
Highlights of the week’s schedule:
• Monday features a Community Issues Fair with representatives from 17 area agencies to discuss issues of animal welfare, children’s advocacy, employment, homelessness, housing, hunger, immigration, social services, special needs, sustainability, veterans, and future community planning.
• Tuesday, Restoration Haven founder and executive director Shirley Langston will visit from 9 - 9:30 a.m. in Marrs McLean Science Building, Room 101 (Packard Auditorium). Students will also spend time visiting the Poage Legislative Library to learn how to research community issues and to explore the life of the late U.S. Rep. Bob Poage, focusing on his role as an advocate and builder of consensus.
• Wednesday, attorney Greg White will visit from 9:10 - 9:30 in Marrs McLean Science Building, Room 101. In the afternoon, campers will visit the Baylor Law School, engaging in a “Shark Tank”-style competition to present their advocacy ideas to area attorneys. Students will learn what it means to be an advocate, engage in consensus building activities and learn about the freedoms of the First Amendment.
• Thursday will provide intensive time for the students to work on their advocacy projects. Andy Hogue, director of Philanthropy and Public Service Program for Baylor, will speak from 9 - 9:30 a.m. Students will also play iCivics games.
• Friday, Rep. Bill Flores will speak to campers at 2:20 p.m. in Marrs McLean Science Building, Room 101. Students will also complete work on their projects. They will present their advocacy projects from 3 p.m. - 4:30 p.m. in Marrs McLean Science 101. Baylor Interim Provost Michael McLendon, Ph.D., will speak during this time.
by Meg Cullar, director of communications, Baylor School of Education
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ABOUT BAYLOR SCHOOL OF EDUCATION
Founded in 1919, Baylor School of Education ranks among the nation’s top 20 education schools located at private universities. The School’s research portfolio complements its long-standing commitment to excellence in teaching and student mentoring. Baylor’s undergraduate program in teacher education has earned national distinction for innovative partnerships with local schools that provide future teachers deep clinical preparation, while graduate programs culminating in both the Ed.D. and Ph.D. prepare outstanding leaders, teachers and clinicians through an intentional blend of theory and practice.