First grader, Olivia Albrecht casts her vote for president./Photo by Maureen Cawley
Students at Middle Township Elementary No. 1 began what will hopefully be a lifelong habit last week when they stepped into a voting booth for the first time. The booth, provided by the County Board of Elections, was used as a tool in an expanded book club activity and a fun lesson in Citizenship 101.
“It actually started as the idea for our first and second grade book club,” teacher Kathy Wynn said, and the idea just grew from there as an opportunity to teach all of the school’s students about the election process.
Students prepared by reading “My Teacher for President” by Kay Winters and talking about the qualities that make a good political leader. They then explored their own ideas about leadership by creating political posters with information about who they would choose as their running mates and what action they would take if they were elected president.
The posters, complete with stick figure drawings, described student political platforms including everything from lowering taxes and taking care of the poor to ending the war in Iraq. And while most students chose a parent, a sibling or a friend as a running mate, one politically savvy youngster chose Republican, vice-presidential hopeful, Sarah Palin, for her dream ticket.
Students also brushed up on the issues by attending a mock political forum with fifth graders in masks standing in for Barack Obama and John McCain, and then, over the course of three days, they cast their votes for President of the United States.
Wynn said the activity was great experience for the students.
“They loved being able to use a real voting booth,” she said.
And while the young citizens’ votes might not count in this election, they were counted, and Obama won a landslide victory over McCain, 322-183.
Wynn said she hopes the experience will inspired the students to be involved in the political process as adults. “Hopefully, they will register when they are 18 and exercise their right to vote,” she said.
Thus, making this practice election a contest that everyone can win in the end..