iCivics backed program hopes to elevate the importance of civics education in U.S. classrooms from 5th grade through college
CLARK COUNTY — Ellie Durgarian from Summit View High School and the Running Start Program at Clark College is one of the organizers of #CivicsForUS, a student social media effort led by the Youth As Civic Experts Network.
Recently, she was a part of the group that led a survey campaign to find out the thoughts of thousands of young people from across the nation.
Some 88 percent of the young people who responded said that events like COVID-19, the protests for racial justice, and the 2020 election helped them understand how the government works; with 76 percent stating that these events inspired them to want to get involved or make a difference.
On the opposite side of the same coin, Annenberg Public Policy Center’s 2019 Civics Knowledge Survey found that only 39 percent of surveyed American adults could correctly name the three branches of government.
The #CivicsForUS social media campaign is the project of the Youth As Civic Experts Network, a nationwide network of middle and high school students advocating for equitable civic education. The group and movement are supported by the iCivics organization.
#CivicsForUS is designed to start a conversation among young people about how civic engagement and civic education experiences can be more relevant to all students, no matter their backgrounds. Durgarian, a junior at Summit View is one of 35 students leading the effort.
“It’s really important that students learn about civics,” Durgarian previously told Clark County Today. “It’s how we maintain our democracy, as citizens here. So I really think working on getting a curriculum for that, and also requiring a civics class, you know, because right now, we just have requirements for history classes, but we need to go deeper.”
Funded by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, The Network was developed to provide young people in 8th–12th grade the opportunity to explore equity in civic education. Durgarian was selected to participate in the network after receiving a nomination from her teacher at Chief Umtuch Middle School.
“I feel that I really have the chance to make a meaningful change in the field of civic education,” she said. “I am proud to represent other young people in my community and fight for our collective civic education.”
Between March and June, Durgarian and the Network will use the hashtag #CivicsForUS to engage other young people in a conversation and give them the opportunity to share their experiences in their local communities.
The listening tour asks students from 5th grade through college to share first-hand why they feel civic education is so important right now, and how it can be more equitable and relevant to them and their peers. So far, the effort has collected more than 4,700 responses from 43 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico.
When asked what civic education and civic engagement look like in schools, the top two selections from students 5th through college were U.S. Government or social studies classes and student council or student government. A full analysis and report will be provided this summer.
“I get to meet all of these incredibly intelligent and well spoken high schoolers and middle schoolers from all over the country. Whenever we discuss issues, we listen to each other respectfully, acknowledge each other’s differences, and grow from each experience,” Amber Coleman-Mortley, iCivics’ Director of Social Engagement and Fellowship Program Director, said in a release.
“Our students worked hard to gain insight from peers, including students who are not usually brought into these kinds of discussions, while also learning important digital skills to tell this story. I’m really excited to see what these students come up with.”
The Network was designed to engage students in conversation so that adults and stakeholders in school communities can use youth feedback to inform policy writing and curriculum, and ultimately change the way they engage with students to create civic experiences.
The program includes paid and unpaid fellows and alumni program students grades 8–12 from 15 states representing a diverse cross-section of experiences throughout the U.S. These students meet virtually each month for seminars to discuss equity in civic education with the iCivics team.
The campaign listening tour and social media campaign end on June 30th. You can learn more or join the effort by visiting the #CivicsForUS website: www.iCivics.org/CivicsForUS
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor founded iCivics in 2009 to transform the field through innovative, free educational video games and lessons that teach students to be knowledgeable, curious, and engaged in civic life. Today, iCivics is the nation’s largest provider of civic education curriculum, with our resources used by over 120,500 educators and more than 7.6 million students each year nationwide. Visit www.icivics.org to learn more.
Information provided by iCivics