Google grant aims to increase civic engagement through education

Google recently announced a $100,000 grant in partnership with the Council on Public Legal Education to benefit nonprofit iCivics. The grant will provide free Washington state-specific civics lessons to schools and after-school programs statewide.

Founded in 2009 by Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, iCivics endeavors to empower teachers to develop the next generation of informed citizens through online games, videos, and other resources.

“At Google we believe in the importance of civic knowledge and engagement, and that starts on a local level,” Darcy Nothnagle, head of external affairs for the NW at Google said in a statement. “iCivicsWA provides a fantastic opportunity for students to understand the political system in Washington state and energizes them to get involved locally and nationally.”

In celebration of the grant, students in the YMCA’s Youth in Government program at Hamilton International Middle School in Seattle were among the first to explore the iCivicsWA platform. The students also were treated with a visit from Judge Marlin Appelwick, co-chair for the Council on Public Legal Education.

Many of the students said they enjoyed the civics lesson. Eighth-grader Hannah Andral said her civic participation is important because, “as a citizen, it’s your right to know what’s going on and to talk to your legislators — it’s the best way to have control.” While eighth-grader Emmy Haile said she thinks it’s important to “stand up for what you believe in.”

Four Washington state-specific lesson plans targeted toward high school students are due to be released Jan. 23. The lessons will be available online through the existing iCivics website — which contains lessons on the federal government — with more to come in the future.