Baylor’s iEngage Summer Civics Institute Emphasizes Active, Engaged Citizenship
Nationally recognized program includes iCivics online games for teaching civics concepts to primary and middle school students
WACO, Texas (July 31, 2023) – Nearly 60 rising middle school students will attend Baylor University’s nationally recognized iEngage Summer Civics Institute July 31-Aug. 4, with campers on the Baylor campus daily from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Founded in 2013, Baylor’s iEngage Summer Civics Institute is led by School of Education faculty member Karon LeCompte, Ph.D., associate professor of curriculum and instruction with an emphasis in social studies education, who also co-founded the program.
“iEngage focuses on the structure of government and what it means to be an active and engaged citizen,” LeCompte said. “The iEngage program is designed to help middle school students learn how to make a difference in their schools, neighborhoods and communities, even as young people.”
Attendance at Baylor iEngage is free through funding by Baylor and the Hatton W. Sumners Foundation. The program curriculum is furthering its impact by expanding to new locations. TCU in Fort Worth has hosted an iEngage summer institute since 2016, and Indiana University’s Columbus campus — IUPUC (Indiana University – Purdue University Columbus) — hosted their first iEngage Indiana camp in late June.
The Baylor iEngage program activities include a field trip to Baylor’s W. R. Poage Legislative Library, where campers explore primary source artifacts; opportunities to meet with local civic and political leaders; and playing iCivics online games to learn about government. Baylor School of Education students are program counselors, giving them an opportunity to practice valuable skills and work with young people.
Baylor iEngage received the 2022 Sandra Day O’Connor Award for the Advancement of Civics Education – an annual award, presented by the National Center for State Courts (NCSC), that recognized iEngage for its work to promote, inspire, improve and lead innovation in the field of civics education related to the justice system.
“We are truly grateful for the national recognition for Baylor and the School of Education,” LeCompte said. “The greatest reward, though, is the number of students who have been inspired by what they’ve learned during our iEngage summer civics camp and have gone on to make an impact in their communities.”
The iEngage students learn about government functions and political participation through playing iCivics games. iCivics was founded by Justice Sandra Day O’Connor in 2009 to ensure that all Americans have the knowledge and will to participate in the country’s unique experiment in self-government. iCivics is the nation’s premier non-profit civic education provider of high-quality, non-partisan, engaging and free resources to more than nine million students annually in all 50 states.
iEngage research and impact
Since its beginning, more than 1,500 students have participated in iEngage, more than 120 Baylor future teachers have worked at the camp and more than 50 professional teachers have been leaders.
Baylor Education faculty and graduate students have conducted extensive qualitative and quantitative research on civics education, technology and teacher preparation, resulting in more than 50 research publications, including some studying the effectiveness of iCivics online games for teaching civics concepts to primary and middle school students.
In addition to the expansion of summer programs to IUPUC and TCU, LeCompte and others have taken iEngage into regular school classrooms. In 2019, 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. New research findings from that experience — on topics including student problem-solving and challenging classroom discussions — were the foundation for research in The Rural Educator, a journal published by the National Rural Education Association.
This summer, LeCompte also visited IUPUC and TCU camps for research made possible by her 2023 Baylor Centennial Professors Award. After interviewing iEngage students, teachers and counselors at each location, she will analyze the data using a mixed methods research design and then use that research to develop teacher education programs, professional development of new teachers and mentoring support for all elementary teachers.
LeCompte also has adapted the First Amendment section of the iEngage curriculum for use during the school day at Midway ISD’s Spring Valley Elementary. Baylor Ph.D. students also led iEngage in schools, with a program for 500 students at Midway Middle School and another in Longview, Texas. The Ph.D. students embedded a weekly lesson into social studies classes, running for 12 weeks, and are developing in-school curriculum as part of dissertation research on iEngage.
In addition, LeCompte has adapted the curriculum for coursework in Baylor’s Ed.D. in Learning and Organizational Change, an online program serving professionals in a variety of career fields.
“The magic of iEngage is that it can be customized,” LeCompte said. “It can be adapted to any setting and any level of learner.”
One reason for this adaptability is that Baylor iEngage focuses on civil discourse and engagement as a means to build consensus, LeCompte said. Students 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.
Everyone joins the discussion. Students learn how to understand each of their individual perspectives and what it will take for everyone to agree,” LeCompte said. “They 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.”
ABOUT BAYLOR SCHOOL OF EDUCATION
For more than 100 years, the School of Education has advanced Baylor’s mission across the globe while preparing students for a range of careers focused on education, leadership, and human development. With more than 60 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. Likewise, the School of Education’s graduate programs have attained national recognition for their exemplary preparation of research scholars, educational leaders, innovators, and clinicians. Visit the School of Education website to learn more.
ABOUT BAYLOR UNIVERSITY
Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked Research 1 institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 20,000 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 100 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.