iCivics Game Nights: Democracy at Play

June 27, 2019

Did you know that you can host iCivics Game Challenges to encourage civic engagement amongst youth and adults? iCivics Game Challenges offer the ability for players of all ages to build community, have constructive dialogue around a timely topic, and increase civic knowledge as part of our Democracy at Play program. 

Over the previous school year, game challenges, also commonly referred to as "Game Nights," were very popular. They were held on college campuses, community centers, libraries, and schools. To coordinate, hosts simply picked a theme and gathered a group at a location fit for gaming. Some of the events were hosted by educators and connected to an important area of study for their students, such as AP coursework or supplementing current units. For wider audiences, events were organized around a timely topic or current events discussion, such as encouraging voter turnout or informing citizens about their fundamental rights.

Below are some photos and reflections shared with us from iCivics Game Nights held by iCivics’s Educator Network teachers, Ms. Connolly of Preston High School in New York and Ms. Wills of Southeast Valley Middle School in Iowa.

After Ms. Connolly’s Game Night, student participant, Alisha S., shared her reflection, saying:

“iCivics game night took place at my high school on May 6, 2019. Preston High School is an all-girls Catholic school in the Bronx. Game night was hosted by Ms. Connolly, who taught me AP U.S. History last year and taught me both Honors Humanities and Introduction to Law this year. Last year, in AP U.S., we played iCivics games in conjunction with our AP coursework. The games helped me to realize how fun our laws and government can be in practice. I became even more aware of the importance of civic education at the iCivics Constitution Day discussion with Justice Sotomayor at NYU. 

For these reasons, I was thrilled to hear that my school would be holding this game night. It was really special to see my friends, especially those who are not aspiring to have degrees in government or law, playing iCivics games. It helped me to realize that civic education is not limited to those who wish to pursue careers in the field, but rather that this knowledge should be readily available to everyone. iCivics makes this connection not only possible, but also worthwhile for so many students at Preston and across the nation. 

Originally, I thought winning iCivics prizes would be the best part of the afternoon, but I left with more than just material perks. A room full of girls strategizing how to win the presidency was so inspiring and I’m glad I got to partake in it. It is through involved teachers like Ms. Connolly that students are able to hear about these events and activities. iCivics game night was a success at Preston High School and I can’t wait to hear about all the other amazing opportunities Preston girls come to know through programs like this.” 

Alisha’s teacher, Ms. Connolly also noted:

“I have been using iCivics games for several years now, in middle and high school classes. Inevitably, there are students who are too cool to play, but then they see how much fun their peers are having and they join in, and enjoy it! The great part is that these games work for pairs or teams as well as a single player, which offers me a lot of flexibility as a teacher. I love hearing my students talk about what they learned from it and hearing that they begin to play at home as well and have gotten their families into playing, too. The more people we can educate about how the government works, the better!” 

Two students from Ms. Wills' classes at Southeast Valley Middle School in Iowa also shared their reflections, saying:

Kyle J., 8th grade: “I wanted an iCivics Game Night because when we played iCivics games on a regular basis it was a blast, so I thought having a game night out of it was a great idea.”

Max H., 8th grade: “I wanted to make an iCivics Game Night for fun, and also to help out the Little Jags Booster Club.”

Their teacher, Ms. Wills noted:

“I teach 8th grade at a small rural district in Central Iowa. The ‘town’ my building is in is in the middle of nowhere. Outside my windows I see corn fields. For Game Night, I trained five students who volunteered to be what I called, iCivics Ambassadors. These kids became experts in the games that were part of our competition. They helped others get logged onto the site, were able to answer questions about how to play, and kept the leaderboard updated. They did a really fantastic job. The way we set up our night was that people could participate in three games: Argument Wars, LawCraft and Executive Command. The kids really liked having options of what to play. It added to the excitement as the leaderboard got updated. Businesses were pretty generous donating items to use for prizes. We had enough so that everyone was able to walk away with something. We are definitely going to do this again!"  

Interested in hosting an iCivics Game Challenge at your school? Find more information on our Game Challenge Resource Hub.