To combat low civic engagement among Arizona’s youth, ASU’s Center for Civic Engagement and Leadership will begin a new summer camp to get kids involved in the community.
The weeklong Civic Engagement Summer Camp, for students entering third through eighth grade, will be offered three times over the course of the summer and will be managed primarily by ASU students and staff, CCEL director and camp coordinator Sherman Elliott said.
The idea for the camp originally stemmed from a roundtable discussion of educators concerned with the lack of civic education in local elementary and middle schools, Elliott said.
“About three years ago, we found civic education is not being taught because there’s such high-stakes emphasis on reading and math,” he said. “There’s just not time to get to it.”
The goal of the camp is to go beyond civic education and instill a sense of civic responsibility through hands-on activities and field trips, Elliott said.
The camp will also work to promote leadership and interpersonal skills key to civic engagement, something secondary education senior Tricianne Daggett said is important to instill as early as possible.
“I was always very shy as a kid, but I had good ideas growing up. I just never had the opportunity to express them in a comfortable and safe environment,” she said. “The younger you get students comfortable with taking on leadership roles and civic education awareness, the more likely they are to foster those things later in life.”
No staff members have been appointed yet, but Daggett said she hopes to be selected to participate as a counselor.
“My whole purpose as an English education major is to get kids to think critically about their environment and be able to articulate that,” she said. “I want to get kids excited about being involved in the community.”
The camp will include many role-playing activities, Elliott said.
“We want to focus on local civic engagement — we’re not going to make it academic,” he said. “Government is an act. You don’t make kids sit down and study it, you make them do it.”
Education professor Debi Molina-Walters said role-playing is one of the most effective ways for people of all ages, and particularly elementary-aged students, to learn.
“If you look at research, it talks about the natural learning cycle we all have to go through, and it requires us to be engaged and be able to explore,” Molina-Walters said. “[With role playing,] kids get the opportunity to be creative. [It] really allows us to use all of our senses to become someone else and learn through that experience.”
The camp will also include field trips to the state Capitol and municipal court, and a mock town hall meeting held by the students on the last day, Elliott said.
Parents will be invited to the meeting, which will showcase what the students have learned over the course of the week.
Elliott said he also hopes to get a few state legislators to attend and talk with the students.
“We want to create active citizens, but it’s not something that happens by osmosis,” he said. “It’s not just picked up at the dinner table. You have to go out and actually do it, and that’s what we’re trying to do.”
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