Fifth- through ninth-graders learn about civics and provide a rich resource for Baylor faculty research during the annual Baylor University iEngage Summer Civics Institute. Having launched in 2013, the one-week summer day camp is hosted by Baylor School of Education through a grant from the Hatton W. Sumners Foundation. iEngage was named the 2022 recipient oftheSandra Day O’Connor Award for the Advancement of Civics Education, presented by the National Center for State Courts. Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Nathan Hecht nominated Baylor iEngage and presented the award to director Dr. Karon LeCompte in Chicago in July.
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. The camp originated from faculty research tied to Baylor's collaboration with iCivics, the organization founded by former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.
“Not only does iEngage increase the participants’ civic knowledge, skills and propensity for action, it also impacts families and schools,” said institute co-founder Dr. Brooke Blevins, former Baylor education faculty member.
iEngage is furthering its impact by expanding to new locations, said co-founder and director Dr. Karon LeCompte, associate professor. Texas Christian University in Fort Worth has hosted a summer institute since 2016, and faculty from the Bloomington and Columbus campuses of Indiana University were at Baylor in 2022 to experience iEngage in anticipation of launching it on one or more of their 10 campuses. LeCompte and others have also taken iEngage into regular school classrooms as part of social studies curriculum and implemented it as part of a Freedom School program.
“The iEngage Camp has proven to us that youth are interested in community issues,” LeCompte said. “They know they have a voice, and they care about making a difference.”
Also through the collaboration with iCivics, each summer an SOE graduate student or faculty member serves as an iCivics Fellow in Washington, D.C., for six weeks.