Elephants, Donkeys and Classroom Lessons - Southern Maryland Headline News

Elephants, Donkeys and Classroom Lessons

LA PLATA, Md. (Nov. 12, 2008)—As voters prepared to vote last week, Charles County Public Schools students were holding their own elections in classrooms to experience and understand American democracy.

Eva Turner Elementary School held three student elections. The first was for prekindergarten students, in which they voted for a favorite book from two choices, "Bear Wants More," and "Clifford: The Small Red Puppy."

Students in kindergarten through grade 5 voted for their favorite author. Poems from authors Shel Silverstein and Jack Prelutsky were presented to students in class in mid-October and were posted at the main entrance of the school for students to read. Sally Pruitt, a reading resource teacher at Turner, organized the event and said the author election combined reading and literacy skills and current events.

On Thursday, Oct. 30, students voted by class for their favorite author by filling out registration cards and ballots. "Teachers talked to students in class about the poems. This exercise was all about self choice, in which students can choose what they think the best poems are," said Turner Principal Kathleen Morgan. Each student received an "I Voted" sticker to represent their participation in the author election. "The kids were super excited about the election. You could hear them talking about the election at lunch, at the water fountain and in the hallways," Morgan added. Prelutsky was chosen as the favorite Turner author with 174 votes.

Turner students in fourth and fifth grades also voted in a mock presidential election between Barack Obama and John McCain. They also voted yes or no on three questions about gas prices, health care and educational spending.

Students at Milton M. Somers Middle School also held a mock presidential election on Tuesday, Oct. 28. Election coverage was incorporated into classroom lessons as students researched topics such as political advisors, cabinet members and their duties, what it takes to become president, what duties the president performs, how the Electoral College works and what the campaign process entails.

Christina Mulhollan, a Somers social studies teacher, required her students to combine their research and use PowerPoint presentations to present the material to classmates. Her students also created a bulletin board that displayed information about the candidates and their stands on important election issues, such as education, energy, health care, retirement and security.

Each student cast their vote by paper ballot during their language arts classes. Somers also arranged for their presidential election to be part of the National Student/Parent Mock Election (NSPME). Results from the election were forwarded to the NSPME and will be counted in nationwide student results. The program aims to teach students the value of democracy and citizenship, and what the right to make an informed decision means. Somers students elected Obama as their president with 476 votes, with McCain coming in second place, with 323 votes.

Students and staff at C. Paul Barnhart Elementary School also participated in the National Student/Parent Mock Election on Oct. 29-30. The school library was used as the polling site and students in grades kindergarten through five used laptops to cast their vote. Barnhart staff coordinated the election, in which 552 students and staff members participated.

Voters selected their choice for the next President of the United States from the actual candidates who ran in the Nov. 4 election. Voters also chose a past president they thought would best lead the nation. Barnhart's winners were Barack Obama, who received 88 percent of the vote for the president, and George Washington received 41 percent of the vote as the favored past president.

In addition to other county elementary, middle and high schools that hosted student elections, Gale-Bailey Elementary School coordinated an online student election, held Monday, Nov. 3, to focus on making a well-informed decision. The school's election was coordinated with the Studies Weekly "Every Kid Votes" campaign, in which students from across the country cast their vote online, were able to view the popular vote tally of each state, and could monitor electoral votes on a computerized map as the individual schools "polls" closed.

The election at Gale-Bailey was coordinated by Robin Henry, the school's technology facilitator. Gale-Bailey Principal Carrie Richardson said school counselors prepared the students for the election process and explained to them that their participation would help them learn how to make an informed decision, that their decision is their own, and their decision does not have to influenced by others. She said the focus of this process was to teach students how to make an informed decisions for themselves.

Students voted in the school's computer lab and had two minutes to cast their vote. Afterward, each student received an "I Voted" sticker. Henry said she was required to pre-register Gale-Bailey in the Studies Weekly election so the school votes could be counted in the nationwide results. According to Studies Weekly, more than 4 million students in grades kindergarten through eight voted Nov. 3 in their online election.

Source: Charles County public school system

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