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Program at Young Achievers Science and Mathematics Pilot School Focuses on Positive Change and Innovation

Students across Boston are using a game to affect positive change. The pilot program focused on civics education was funded thanks in part to Project Innovation. The NBC Universal campaign is providing nearly $5 million to local non-profits.

At the Young Achievers Science and Mathematics Pilot School in Mattapan, students in 8th-grade history are busy campaigning for an issue of their choice, from putting a stop to bullying to helping homeless animals.

It is the goal of an interactive game called Activate that was developed by the non-profit iCivics. It is based in Cambridge and teaches students across the country about the importance of democracy and becoming a part of the community. It was founded by former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and uses online resources to reach students. Activate is just one of the many games they offer.

“You need to talk and teach students where they’re at,” Executive Director of iCivics Louise Dube said. “And where they’re at is digital. It’s gaming.”

The pilot program in partnership with Boston Public Schools takes the game a step further. It connects what students are doing online to reality, giving them the opportunity to volunteer with local charities and take on issues they care about.

“We are empowering our students so they have a voice,” Director of History and Social Studies for Boston Public Schools Natacha Scott said. “We want them to understand they can make a change and you don’t have to wait until you’re an adult to do that.”

History teacher Tracy Self said she has had great success with iCivics and the lessons go a long way in her classroom.

“I think it really makes it stick. It’s just a way that is reinforcing when they can say, ‘Oh, I learned that in the game,” Self said.

The pilot program is in 40 classrooms and counting in Boston and they hope to expand to more. While it may seem like just a game, they say teaching the students how to be active members of society long after they leave the classroom will mean they have really won.

“Just by doing a little game, you can make a big change,” student Diego Hardy said. “Because we can do it in real life.”

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