By: Kyle Vandenberg, ’14
The SIG 50th anniversary year included many engaging events, from a speaker series that allowed students to learn from experienced alumni, and Professor Larry Diamond’s “Classes without Quizzes” on renewing American democracy, to the capstone gala in Washington, D.C. that gathered nearly 300 SIG alumni and friends. But this anniversary milestone has been more than an opportunity to reflect on past accomplishments; it has spurred current members to re-think how best to achieve SIG’s mission. SIG wants to engage as many students as possible in meaningful experiences like those SIG alumni have recounted. To this end, SIG has embarked on a major new initiative: an expanded Civic Education program.
Last year, the Campus and Community Partnerships (CCP) committee piloted a civic education course for middle school students at schools in Palo Alto, Menlo Park and Redwood City. This year, the CCP committee is partnering with the afterschool nonprofit organization Citizen Schools to teach a full civic education curriculum to three classes of middle school students.
Three teams of Stanford students teach a weekly class, covering topics such as checks and balances in the federal government, executive powers, and judicial rights. One of the teams has a STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) focus, with students learning about different government agencies and organizations such as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
CCP’s Civic Education initiative has strengthened SIG’s connection with the local community, engaged more students on campus by empowering them as teachers and leaders, and helped demonstrate the importance of connecting STEM with public service and government. SIG is excited for CCP’s initiative to continue engaging a wider community in new ways. This is just the beginning of a new era for SIG.
Here is what a Team Leader had to say about the success of her civic education team:
“It is truly amazing to see how far the kids have come in terms of their understanding of the American government system, [and] also in terms of their confidence in public speaking. I think it is so important that they have a better understanding of their government and how they can play a role in it. I love hearing some of them say they want to be the first woman president or that they now want to write to their representative in Congress because it just demonstrates that our main point of emphasis, that these students can affect change through our government, has gotten through to them.”Abby Fanlo, ´16, Team Leader Kennedy Middle School Redwood City, CA
Abby’s class gathers around their final project.