Former high court justice Sandra Day O'Connor visits Addison school

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by JASON WHEELER

Bio | Email | Follow: @jasonwheelertv

WFAA

Posted on October 11, 2013 at 5:24 PM

Updated Friday, Oct 11 at 5:24 PM

ADDISON -- How about this for a civics lesson: Studying government with the help of a former Supreme Court justice -- and not just any justice.

Retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor visited some sixth graders at Trinity Christian Academy in Addison Friday to watch them play with a program called iCivics. She explained to the youngsters how it helps them learn about government.

“We think the best way is to develop some games you can play that are interesting to play, but also teach at the same time," she said.

O’Connor helped start iCivics after she stepped down from the high court and saw a lack of education about how government works.

“[O'Connor] talked to teachers, which people don’t do that a lot -- particularly in the education reform movement," said Erin Braun, director of outreach for iCivics. "She asked, 'What do you need?'”

In just several years time, about 40,000 teachers have signed on to the free site to augment their curriculum. It’s been popular with some kids, too, according to Braun.

“I just talked to a student who said, 'My parents had to kick me off this, because I was having too much fun. I played the games for two hours last night.' You don’t hear about students doing civics on their own at home for two hours, so I think she has done something well," Braun said. "We just have to figure out how to scale that for every kid in America.”

A few students we talked to say iCivics has taught them, and inspired them.

“I wanted to be a baseball player, but now I want to be in the House of Representatives,” said 11-year-old Will Compton.

His classmate, 11-year-old Haleigh Brown added, “I definitely want to be a politician. Senate probably.”

Or maybe, she said, a Supreme Court justice, after hearing O’Connor describe what it was like to be the first woman to hold that job.

“It made me want to do a good job, because I knew everybody would be watching and paying attention, so I didn’t want to make a big mistake right off the bat,” the former justice told the class.

Before leaving, O’Connor also shared what she always carries in her purse: The Constitution of the United States.

To learn more about iCivics, click here.

E-mail jwheeler@wfaa.com

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