iEngage Civics Camp Builds Students’ Civic Knowledge

  • iEngage 1
    (Photo courtesy of Baylor School of Education/Hunter Mitchell)
  • iEngage 2
    (Photo courtesy of Baylor School of Education/Hunter Mitchell)
  • iEngage 3
    (Photo courtesy of Baylor School of Education/Hunter Mitchell)
Aug. 2, 2019

WACO, Texas (Aug. 2, 2019) – With civics education largely disappearing from school curricula, in 2009, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor decided to address the issue by founding iCivics, a free online website that teaches civics concepts using educational games. The retired Justice’s vision for civics education has expanded over the years at Baylor University through the iEngage Summer Civics Institute.

From Aug. 5-9, 100 fifth- through ninth-grade students will learn about civics at the annual summer camp hosted by the 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 and chair of the department of curriculum and instruction, and Karon LeCompte, Ph.D., associate professor of curriculum and instruction.

“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.

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.

Civil discourse and engagement

Throughout the week, iEngage campers learn about the structure of government and other civic-related topics by playing digital games on iCivics.org. They also will meet with local elected officials and use the local newspaper to identify a specific issue in the community, conduct research about the root causes and determine why that issue is important to the community.

Students then will learn how to foster 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, as students, would like the group to address. Then the group must come to a consensus.

“To reach a consensus, everyone joins the discussion,” LeCompte said. “Students will learn how to understand each of their individual perspectives and what it takes for everyone to agree. The campers go through a process of examining pros and cons on suggested solutions to a community issue and finding an option that’s an acceptable plan of action.”

Blevins and LeCompte began their research in this area and developed the iEngage camp and its curriculum out of studies they conducted about the implementation of iCivics in Midway and Waco Independent School Districts.

For the weeklong iEngage, 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 experience.

“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.

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. Baylor faculty publications based on iEngage have included 10 journal articles and three book chapters.

iEngage expands

The iEngage program curriculum is furthering its impact by expanding to new locations. This summer marks the fourth year for the iEngage Summer Civics Institute at TCU in Fort Worth. In addition, LeCompte led a weeklong iEngage experience during the school year for 22 fifth graders in the east Texas community of Latexo, where school leaders devoted half of the class day to iEngage activities, with a culminating presentation by students at the Latexo Community Center. LeCompte also adapted the First Amendment section of the iEngage curriculum for use during the school day at Midway ISD’s Spring Valley Elementary, where 30 second graders participated.

iEngage will be held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Aug. 5-9, in Baylor’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.

Master teachers at the camp are Waco-area teachers and a teacher from the Latexo project. Staffers at the camp also include graduate students and undergraduate students from the School of Education, who gain valuable instructional experience, LeCompte said. This year, students studying education at Tarleton State University and McLennan Community College will also be leading campers.

Highlights of the week’s schedule:

• Monday will feature a Community Issues Fair with representatives from area agencies. Students will rotate to various speaker stations in classrooms between 12:20 and 2:15 p.m.

• Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Alan Albright of the Western District of Texas will be the guest speaker at the opening session at 9:05 a.m., in Marrs McLean Science Building (MMSB), Room 101 (Packard Hall) and visit Baylor’s W. R. Poage Legislative Library. The students’ newspaper activity will take place at 12:20 p.m. in various classrooms in MMSB.

• Wednesday, John Bible of the CenTex African American Chamber of Commerce will be the guest speaker at 9:05 a.m. in MMSB, Room 101. In the afternoon, campers engage in a “Shark Tank”-style competition to present their ideas. Shark Tank advisors from the community are Waco City Secretary Esmeralda Hudson, La Vega ISD teacher George Stonikinis and Associate Dean Leah Jackson Teague and Professor Greg White of Baylor Law School.

• Thursday, students will work on their projects. Mission Waco Director John Calaway will be the guest speaker at 9:05 a.m. in MMSB, Room 101. Students also will play iCivics games and interview experts about their chosen issue.

• Friday, Waco Assistant City Manager Deidra Emerson will be the guest speaker at 9:05 a.m. in MMSB, Room 101. Students will complete work on their projects and present their projects from 3 to 4 p.m.

ABOUT BAYLOR UNIVERSITY

Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 17,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 90 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.

ABOUT BAYLOR SCHOOL OF EDUCATION

For more than 100 years, Baylor educators have carried the mission and practices of the School of Education to classrooms and beyond as teachers, superintendents, psychologists, health education professionals, academics/scholars and more. With more than 50 full-time faculty members, the school’s growing 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. Visit www.baylor.edu/soeto learn more.

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