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Statewide Civics Bee open to local students

State Capitol building, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
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A local Civics Bee will test sixth, seventh and eighth grade students on their knowledge of government.

Entries are now open for Pennsylvania’s first state Civics Bee, and students from the Wyoming Valley region and beyond have a chance to compete.

Everal Eaton, senior director of operations at the Greater Wyoming Valley Chamber of Commerce, said sixth, seventh and eighth grade students from Luzerne, Lackawanna and Wyoming counties can enter the local level of the Bee and have a chance to compete at the state level.

“We’re very excited to host this locally,” Eaton said. “This will be the first year for us.”

The Greater Wyoming Valley Chamber of Commerce is one of six chambers throughout the commonwealth hosting a competition for students in their regions. The Centre County Chamber, Chester County Chamber, Erie Regional Chamber, Greater Reading Chamber and Harrisburg Regional Chamber are accepting entries from students in their areas.

The state Civics Bee is part of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s 2023 National Civics Bee. It’s modeled on traditional spelling and geography bees, but focuses on topics like government and civic responsibility.

The first round is an essay contest. Students can submit a 500-word essay to their local competition proposing a civics solution to a problem they see in their community.

Eaton is looking forward to seeing what issues students in the Wyoming Valley region identify.

“Based on what students did in other states, they talked about various issues within our society such as transportation, health care, all that kind of stuff that… all our communities are kind of working towards and trying to address,” he said.

Each participating chamber will select the top 20 students from the essay contest to participate in their live quiz. Then, the top three finalists from each local event will advance to the state competition.

Eaton said the questions during the live quiz will focus on government topics like the branches of government and how laws are passed.

“We know on an adult level how our government works, but we really want to make sure that education is happening at the sixth, seventh and eighth grade level,” he said.

The 2023 National Civics Bee is building on a pilot competition held in six states in 2022, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation. Chambers of Commerce in Colorado, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, New Mexico and Ohio are hosting their own competitions this year at the same time as Pennsylvania.

The Foundation said 981 contestants from 135 schools participated in 2022. Eaton hopes to continue hosting a Civics Bee competition in years to come.

“We know that the government has been a national dialogue more and more in recent years,” he said. “It’s important to understand how our government functions and it just kind of bleeds into every part of work, life and play within the Wyoming Valley.”

Students have until Feb. 24 at midnight to enter the essay portion of the competition. To enter the Wyoming Valley competition, go to wyomingvalleychamber.org and look for the link to the National Civics Bee.

Sarah Scinto is the local host of All Things Considered on WVIA. She is a Connecticut native and graduate of King’s College in Wilkes-Barre, and has previously covered Northeastern Pennsylvania for The Scranton Times-Tribune, The Citizens’ Voice and Greater Pittston Progress.