iEngage Civics Camp Teaches Students How to be Engaged, Active Citizens

July 26, 2018

Annual civics education camp July 30-Aug. 3 at Baylor will focus on civil discourse and engagement, building consensus

Contact: Meg Cullar, School of Education, 254-710-6435
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WACO, Texas (July 26, 2018) – One hundred fifth- through ninth-graders will learn about civics and how to be engaged, active citizens during the annual Baylor University iEngage Summer Civics Institute July 30-Aug. 3 on the Baylor campus. The camp, in its sixth year, is hosted by Baylor School of Education through a grant from the Hatton W. Sumners Foundation.

The iEngage camp’s curriculum teaches children about civic action and political participation, as they meet local civic leaders and elected officials before developing an 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, a free online website founded by retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor that teaches civics concepts using educational games.

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.

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.”

Enhancing civic responsibility

The camp also provides a rich resource for Baylor faculty research. Blevins and LeCompte began their work implementing iCivics in in the Waco and Midway Independent School Districts and then began studying the program’s impact on students. Their research, published in several academic journals, has demonstrated that attending iEngage Summer Civics Institute enhances children’s 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.”

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 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.

iEngage expands in Texas

The iEngage program curriculum is furthering its impact by expanding to new locations. This summer marks the third year for the iEngage Summer Civics Institute at Texas Christian University, and another will launch soon at the University of Texas at Austin.

iEngage will be held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., July 30-Aug. 3, in Baylor University’s Marrs McLean Science Building, 1214 S. Fourth St. The camp is free, and students will 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 the department of curriculum and instruction and the department of educational psychology (EDP). Inclusion of graduate students from EDP allows the program to be more responsive to 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:

  • On Monday, Rep. Bill Flores will visit iEngage at 2:30 p.m. in Marrs McLean Science Building, Room 101 (Packard Auditorium) on the Baylor campus. Monday also features a Community Issues Fair with representatives from eight area agencies to discuss issues including poverty, children’s advocacy, violence, school safety, homelessness, housing, hunger, immigration, social services, sustainability, veterans and health care. At 9:10 a.m. in Room 101 (Packard Auditorium) of Marrs McLean Science Building on the Baylor, Waco City Council member Dillon Meek with talk about what it means to be a good citizen.
  • On Tuesday, Mayor Kyle Deaver will visit from 9 to 9:30 a.m. in Marrs McLean Science Building, Room 101. Students also will spend time visiting the Poage Legislative Library to learn how to research community issues and to explore various primary documents related to community change and advocacy in Waco.
  • Wednesday, Waco City Council member Andrea Jackson Barefield will visit from 9:10 to 9:30 in Marrs McLean Science Building, Room 101. In the afternoon, campers will engage in a “Shark Tank”-style competition to present their advocacy ideas to area attorneys and Waco City Secretary Esmeralda Hudson. Students will learn what it means to be an advocate, engage in consensus building activities and explore how to communicate effectively.
  • Thursday will provide intensive time for the students to work on their advocacy projects. Mission Waco Founder and Director Jimmy Dorrell will speak from 9 to 9:30 a.m. in Packard hall. Students also will play iCivics games and interview experts about their chosen issue.
  • Friday, educator and entrepreneur Nancy Grayson, owner of Lula Jane’s Bakery, will speak from 9 to 9:20 a.m. in Packard Hall. Students also will complete work on their advocacy projects and present them from 3 to 4 p.m. in Room 101 (Packard Hall) of Marrs McLean Science.

During this time, students also will be available for interviews by the media about their projects. Also, on Friday, student blogs will be available at under the “Student Projects” tab of the iEngage blog site.


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 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.


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.