Teachers use election to spark student debate
Teachers use election to spark student debate In this photo provided by Kate Baker, taken Oct. 19, 2016, fourth grade teacher Halie Miller and students at Glacier Ridge Elementary School in Dublin, Ohio are using the election as a teaching tool for her students in social studies and math. From left are, Halie Miller, Calvin McCormick, Sriram Katta, Audrey DiCesare and Mia Dahi. (Kate Baker via AP/David Goldman/AP)
Teachers use election to spark student debate
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From mock elections to writing projects and Electoral College math, many teachers are embracing the presidential race between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. They see it as a teaching tool.
 
Muslims. Taxes. The wall. Emails. The negative exchanges. They're all up for discussion in Halie Miller's fourth-grade class. It is at Glacier Ridge Elementary. The school is in Dublin, Ohio. When the students hold their own debates, they're polite and respectful.
 
"We kind of have debates and never yell at each other," says 9-year-old Mia Dahi. "We give our opinions and what we think about it. But we don't really fight about it."
 
The election provides material for other subjects beyond social studies. In math, Miller's students have learned about the magic of the number 270. They use addition and subtraction to come up with different combinations to get to 270 electoral votes. That is the number it takes for a candidate to claim victory.
 
This election no doubt has presented challenges for educators. The campaign includes difficult topics. And it has a lot of general bitterness and angry rhetoric.
 
"Teachers all over the country are having some very hard conversations with their students in a nonpartisan way," says National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen Garc°a.
 
It's also has created some good debates.
 
"They're having discussions about race. They're having discussions about religious freedom," she said. "They're having discussions about should girls aspire to be president as likely as a boy would aspire to be president."
 
Alice Reilly is president of the National Social Studies Supervisors Association. She says teachers can't ignore the election.
 
"It's part of social studies. It's part of civics. It's part of government," she said.
 
Teachers Sara Winter and Patricia Carlson at Williamsburg Middle School in Arlington, Virginia, turned the election into a five-week THINK-TAC-TOE project. They teach sixth graders. The students are required to complete three of nine activity squares on their worksheets.
 
Among them:
 
Analyze a newspaper article on the election. Write two to three paragraphs about it.
 
Take a 30-minute walk around the neighborhood. Count the Clinton and Trump yard signs. Write two to three paragraphs about why the student thinks people in the community might support one candidate over the other.
 
Interview five people about who they are voting for. Write about why they support a particular candidate.
 

In Denver, social studies teacher Aaron Stites says the tone of the campaign can be discouraging.
 
"You can get bogged down by the negativity. But to see kids excited about the election and kids feeling they have a voice, it gives me a boost," Stites said. "Any time kids in your classroom are engaged and don't want to leave class, that's a good feeling."
 
Stites is a teacher at the Bryant-Webster Dual Language School. He says immigration is the issue his seventh- and eighth-grade students have the most questions about. The school has a diverse population. Some kids, he says, have asked, "Mr. Stites, if Trump is elected, what does that mean for us? And, how much power does a president really have?"
 
There are questions about Clinton, too. Stites says his students have discussed her emails. They discuss whether they think she's good at securing classified information.
 
"They want to read and find out more about the candidates," says Stites.
 
Back in Miller's class outside Columbus, students read about the campaign in Scholastic News.
 
Miller says one student asked what a Muslim was. And, why Trump wanted a temporary ban on Muslims entering the country. So, Miller turned to the children's book "Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns: A Muslim Book of Colors," to discuss Muslim culture with her class. Another child said the Islamic State group and the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks had something to do with the ban. The students then discussed whether they thought that was fair.
 
"They hear things at home or on the news. And they just need someone to help connect the dots," Miller said. "I'm trying to focus more on the positives."
 
The fourth grade at Miller's school also is participating in a mock election. Sriram Katta says he still doesn't know how he'll vote.
 
"I want to hear about who's going to do something about health care and who's going to do something about taxes," said Katta.
 
Audrey Di Cesare also doesn't have a favorite.
 
"I really don't have somebody to vote for because I don't want Hillary to raise taxes and I don't want Trump to build a wall or ban Muslims and immigrants. Because it's America and we should unite."

Source URL: https://www.tweentribune.com/article/junior/teachers-use-election-spark-student-debate/

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How do mock elections boost engagement?
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COMMENTS (30)
  • connor2-war
    11/08/2016 - 12:28 p.m.

    i find is nice that teachers are making activities and projects for students at schools so they can have a little bit of knowledge on the election. but i also do not think it is the best thing to do for them because it might give the students hope that they can go say something or do something to make one of the candidates win the election even though they cant even vote at there age.

  • hannah6-war
    11/08/2016 - 12:29 p.m.

    Mock elections will boost engagement because you could get involved in the election. The more you know, the more educated you are, and the better you can choose a good candidate. Mock elections could also prepare you for voting in the future.

  • colton-war
    11/08/2016 - 12:31 p.m.

    I think that it is okay that the kids are expressing their opinion about todays topic. They talk reasonably and dint yell or fight. They learn more from having debates than not talking about it regularly or not at all.

  • jarrett1-war
    11/08/2016 - 12:32 p.m.

    I think it is good that they are teaching younger kids about politics so they know what is going on in there government. Also when they grow up they wont be confused when they are able to vote. It is good for younger kids to learn about there presidential candidates.

  • chris25-war
    11/08/2016 - 12:43 p.m.

    Mock elections boost engagements because it causes students to think about the election, and their beliefs.

  • john16-war
    11/08/2016 - 02:01 p.m.

    The kids should have assay in who gets it. They should because it could effect them or it couldn't in the long run. Also it is helpful for the kids learning about it in school and with other people.

  • olivia-war
    11/08/2016 - 02:02 p.m.

    It's good to see kids coming together and discussing politics. It is good to see kids getting to voice their on opinions on who should be President.

  • kaitlyn-war
    11/08/2016 - 02:02 p.m.

    To be honest, if I had to vote, I wouldn't know who to vote for. There are good and bad qualities to each candidate and I wish we had more options.

  • brandonbush-war
    11/08/2016 - 02:03 p.m.

    I think that it is a good idea on how to tech kids the idea of running for president and using in a somewhat fun way.

  • naomi1-war
    11/08/2016 - 02:03 p.m.

    Mock elections boost engagement by having kids chose their side. Also to prepare for future voting. There are many reasons mock elections boost engagement.

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