iEngage Encourages Civic Participation

Fifty middle school students will convene on the TCU campus next week to learn about the privileges and responsibilities of citizenship in a free civics camp. TCU is only the second university to host the iEngage Summer Civics Institute, which is funded by a grant from the Hatton W. Sumners Foundation and by TCU’s College of Education. Campers will include students entering grades 6-9 at Daggett Montessori, McLean Sixth Grade, McLean Middle School and other schools in the Fort Worth area.

Camp Director and Associate Professor Michelle Bauml applied for a joint grant with Baylor University to start the camp at TCU in 2016. She modeled curriculum and activities after the Baylor camp, which started in 2013.

iEngage is designed to help middle school students learn how to make a difference in their neighborhood, school and community. Campers build important leadership skills through interactions with local civic leaders, simulations and group projects. Camp activities include a visit to Fort Worth City Hall, visiting with elected officials, researching local community issues and playing digital iCivics games. During the camp, students develop an advocacy project and website for a community issue they research and discuss, which they will present to family and community members. Examples of 2016 iEngage student projects may be found here.

Mayor Price talks to iEngage campers-photo

iEngage campers visit Mayor Betsy Price at Fort Worth City Hall in 2016. (Glen E. Ellman)

The TCU iEngage camp enlists the help of TCU students and local middle school teachers to help guide students and the activities. In addition to completing advocacy projects, campers play iCivics games developed by the Sandra Day O’Connor Institute. Campers will visit Fort Worth City Hall to hear Mayor Betsy Price speak and will hear from many community leaders throughout the week.

Both the iEngage camps at TCU and Baylor will include a new activity this year, developed by Baylor and based on the “Shark Tank” TV show. Campers select advocacy topics in groups, conduct research and create a multimedia presentation. This year the groups will complete the additional shark tank activity and pitch their topic to a panel of community leaders.

“The sharks will ask questions, give feedback and hopefully get campers thinking on another level about how to address advocacy issues,” Bauml said. “We feel that for children at this middle school age, the advocacy project is empowering.”

Bauml has collected data and surveys on how iEngage affects children’s knowledge and attitudes about civic action. She and Baylor professors will co-present research findings at a National Council for the Social Studies conference in November.