A team of AU students won the DHS “Invent2Prevent” competition meant to empower students to develop innovative projects to help prevent targeted violence and terrorism. Through the semester-long project, the team in the Terrorism, Extremism, and Education course evaluated the threat of inaccurate information comprehension skills and created online resources to cultivate digital literacy among youth through a comprehensive approach. Led by Dr. Cynthia Miller-Idriss, professor in the School of Education and School of Public Affairs, eight students won $5,000 and partnered with The Polarization & Extremism Research Innovation Lab (PERIL) at AU to continue the project.
The winning submission was a titled D.U.C.C., or Developing and Using Critical Comprehension, targeted at students in grades 1-6, parents, and teachers through this online hub. Teammates included education minors Laura Kralicky '22, Sylvia Hu '23, Eliza Costello '23, Nicholas Caraballo '23, in addition to Nora Lewis '24, Molly Sallet '23, Maya Green '24, and Emily Stingle '24. They created an animated video, a social media campaign, relevant resources, lesson plans, and guides for teachers and parents.
“Because of the immense amount of misinformation and propaganda that gets circulated online, younger populations need the tools to vet their sources and understand how to be safe and responsible media consumers,” said project manager Stingle.
Project manager Kralicky reflected on the importance of the project, saying, “Early intervention is of the utmost importance so that children have skills to understand the content that they are exposed to without bias. If we teach students critical thinking skills and how to avoid believing misinformation, their attitude and behavior as they grow up will reflect this, creating a new generation of open-minded and informed individuals.”
Stingle was excited that her team had won. “The competition combined my academic interests with my passion for creating positive change at the community level,” she said. The future of the project, Kralicky said, is “to expand our animated video library and create more lesson plans while working with teachers and early childhood education experts to review and revise our content. Then, our goal is to get our initiative into classrooms around the country.”