(The Center Square) – Pennsylvania students have been invited to put their knowledge of American government to the test and compete in a nationwide civics competition to be held later this year.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation said it is now accepting entries for the 2023 National Civics Bee, a contest aimed at encouraging America’s youth to engage in civics and contribute to their communities.
And this year, Pennsylvania is one of nine states chosen to participate in the annual event.
Luke Bernstein, president and chief executive officer of the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry, said the organization is “thrilled to host this opportunity for young Pennsylvanians to flex their civics knowledge and connect with the issues that shape our state.”
“An informed citizenry makes for a stronger commonwealth,” he said.
The foundation says 47% of Americans are not able to name all three branches of government and 76% of eighth graders score below proficient in civics.
“A government ‘of the people’ can only exist if the people understand how their government works, and are willing to participate in it,” said Lora DeSalvo, curriculum associate for iCivics, a nonprofit founded by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. “Teaching civics is the pathway for meeting both of those goals.”
Middle schoolers will initially compete locally for bragging rights and cash prizes. The top three winners from each of six local contests will advance on to the state competition.
Modeled after traditional spelling and geography bees, it gives students the chance to win cash prizes ranging from $250 to $1,000 by sharing their ideas for improving their communities and showing enthusiasm for civics.
The chamber has partnered with the foundation and five other chambers of commerce across the Pennsylvania to provide the platform for the statewide competition.
The six locations are as follows:
- Erie Regional Chamber and Growth Partnership (Erie)
- Harrisburg Regional Chamber & CREDC (Harrisburg)
- Chester County Chamber of Business & Industry (Malvern)
- Greater Reading Chamber Alliance (Reading)
- Chamber of Business & Industry of Centre County (State College)
- Greater Wyoming Valley Chamber of Commerce (Wilkes-Barre)
To enter, students in grades 6-8 must submit a 500-word essay to one of the participating chamber partners. Submissions must be received by Feb. 24.
Starting out, local chambers will empanel judges who will review the essays and select 20 finalists who will compete against each other in a live quiz event.
The top three students from each local competition will then advance to the state competition scheduled for early June.
The other states that will be participating in the National Civics Bee this year are Colorado, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, New Mexico, Ohio, Texas and Washington.
All contest rules and instructions for entering can be found on the chamber’s website.