On Thursday, 50 students from middle schools across Alachua County competed in the sixth annual civics challenge at the Alachua County administrative offices.
High Springs Community School, Kanapaha Middle School, Lincoln Middle School, Oak View Middle School and Westwood Middle School each sent two teams of five seventh grade students to answer civics questions. This was the first in-person competition since 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. The last two competitions were only held virtually.
“Seeing different members of Gainesville’s government help put this competition together really helped me learn about the government,” said Pranav Mannam, a student from Lincoln Middle School. “I had a lot of fun.”
The competition consisted of a written test and a fast-paced family-feud-style trivia game where students use a buzzer and answer civics questions.
The competition began with a speech from Alachua County Court Judge Meshon T. Rawls. Rawls said she wanted the students to really understand the importance of the civics challenge.
“I hope the ultimate goal is for you to understand how government works, your role as a citizen and how you as a citizen can make our community better,” Rawls said. “I’m challenging you to be a game-changer in your community, […] someone that makes things happen,” she said.
The competition also included a speech from Alachua County Tax Collector John Power. He explained to the children how certain aspects of government and taxes work.
“Getting [the kids] to do all their civic duties and civic responsibilities is such an important thing, and I think these kinds of events really help them with that,” Jon Rehm said. Rehm is the K-12 social studies curriculum specialist for Alachua County public schools. He organizes the civics challenge every year.
“I’m so proud of them. I threw every bit of civics knowledge I have at them, and they did fantastic,” Rehm said.
Rehm said that the civics challenge is a fun way for students to practice for their end-of-course civics exam required by the state. He said the competition is a great way for students who are interested in civics to compete and have fun. He said he hopes that some students will be inspired to become the civic leaders of the future.
Rehm said that the in-person competition helps students not only learn about the government but also retain the information. Getting to meet elected officials and compete in a professional setting really sticks with the kids, he said.
On April 26, Alachua County will host an additional civics challenge held entirely online. All civics students in the county will be able to participate.
Westwood Middle School’s team two won first place in the in-person competition. The team consisted of students Evelyn Collins, Julia Kauffman, Chesley McDonald, Elise Tongay and Anjali Ulmer. Kanapaha Middle School’s team two won second place.
Each team reviewed for the competition with their civics teachers over the last few weeks before the challenge.
Lincoln Middle School student Christopher Chestnut said that he studied outside of school, too. He said his family and friends also helped him review for the competition.
Noah Kaufman, a civics teacher at Lincoln Middle School, said that his students put in a lot of hard work and that he is very proud of them.
Michaela George, a student at Oak View Middle School, said the competition helped her learn a lot of things about the government that she would not have learned on her own. She said that the competition was challenging, but she was having a lot of fun with her classmates.
Students from Oak View Middle School joked that their favorite part about the competition was that they got to skip running the mile in gym class.