iCivics: The Democracy Lab
The facts: Only one in three Americans can name the three branches of government. (former Supreme Court Justice, Sandra Day O’Connor, during her appearance on The Daily Show)
iCivics is a web-based civics program that former Supreme Court Justice, Sandra Day O’Connor helped to develop in hopes to inspire our students to become active participants in a democratic society. This program was initiated by Ms. O’Connor’s fear that our students may not be getting the information and tools necessary to be active participants in the 21st century.
The game is designed for students from grades 4 to high school and takes approximately a class period to complete. The students can choose to role play jobs such as being President of the United States, a member of Congress, or a Justice in the Supreme Court. This game basically teaches student how or government works through role playing and making informed decisions.
An entire civics curriculum can be found on the site with up-to-date ideas and information that is easily adapted into any classroom with resources such as how to teach the Constitution, Bill of Rights and the three branches of government. The games and comprehensive lesson plans to go with them are available for free at iCivics.org.
Some of the games are meant for single players; others to engage the class in discussions about some of the decisions to be made in the game. The iCivics games include the following titles:
- Do I Have a Right? – A game where you run your own law firm that specializes in constitutional law.
- Executive Command – A game where you can be the president.
- Supreme Decision – A game that teaches how the Supreme Court works.
- Branches of Power – A game that allows you to control the three branches of the government.
- Law Craft – A game where you play as a member of the Congress.
The game is fast paced and very interactive. While playing the role of a president, I was getting overwhelmed at all the decisions that I had to make and how they impacted the daily lives of all Americans. For teachers, this site is a treasure. The lesson plans are up-to-date and meet the needs of all students. For students, the game gives an accurate glimpse into the branches of government.