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, teachers are embracing the presidential race between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. They see it as a real-world teaching tool.
 
Muslims. Taxes. The wall. Emails. The negative exchanges. They're all up for discussion in Halie Miller's fourth-grade class at Glacier Ridge Elementary. It 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 to claim victory.
 
"Educating students about their role in a democracy was one of the original goals of public education in this country. And it should remain so today, as our nation becomes more and more diverse," Education Secretary John B. King Jr. said in recent remarks at the National Press Club.
 
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 opened the door, though, to 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 for their sixth graders. They are required to complete three of nine activity squares on their worksheets.
 
Among them:
 
Analyze a newspaper article on the election and write two to three paragraphs about it.
 
Take a 30-minute walk around the neighborhood, tally Clinton and Trump yard signs and 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 and write about why they support a particular candidate.
 
In Denver, social studies teacher Aaron Stites says the tone of the campaign can at times 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 him, "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/tween56/teachers-use-election-spark-student-debate/

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
How do mock elections boost engagement?
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COMMENTS (58)
  • loganm1-dav
    11/03/2016 - 10:04 p.m.

    In response to "Teacher's using election to spark student debate" I think this is really cool that this heated election is also producing something good furor society. This election has a lot of people mad and angry, but if we could use this to benefit our kids, it would be a good learning tool. In Dublin, Ohio, the kids are not yelling or screaming to support their views, they are peacefully talking it out. If the two candidates could be like these kids, then this race would not be such an uproar. Are kids learning from this election is better than them not learning at all.

  • benjamins-buh
    11/04/2016 - 10:23 a.m.

    Students can fake vote for the presidents at schools. I think that is very cool because children can have input and speak there mind.

  • nathanm14-ste
    11/04/2016 - 01:47 p.m.

    I think that this election has too much information for kids. They can't understand half of the things that are going on or the things that have happened in the past with both of the candidates.

  • joeg-orv
    11/07/2016 - 11:48 a.m.

    I think it is a good thing to do mock elections because they can learn that it is important to vote for when they get older.

  • hannahc-stu
    11/07/2016 - 01:04 p.m.

    i think they boost it because it gets young kids and teenagers to get some knowledge before they become the age of 18 so they can vote a good vote

  • matthewd2-har
    11/07/2016 - 02:41 p.m.

    Mock elections boost engagement because it makes the kids beleive that they have a say in the matter and that they have power of the situation. Mocking elections will encourage kids to vote at presidential and lower tier elections.

  • zachb4-har
    11/07/2016 - 02:53 p.m.

    Mock elections boost engagement: They boost because it can help kids that are my age understand more about the elections run and how they can get elected and it also teaches them how they can stand up at the stage and try to gain our trust to elect them.

  • jennyc1-stu
    11/07/2016 - 03:02 p.m.

    I like how they share their opinions without arguing about what they think. They just simply disagree.

  • alext-dal
    11/08/2016 - 10:57 a.m.

    It is very interesting because everyone wants to know who wins.I think Hilary Clinton is going to win because no one wants Donald trump to build a wall.Also people don't want to vote for Hilary Clinton because she is going to raise taxes and Donald Trump wants to build wall.So some people don't to vote for either of them to win.If Hilary wins she will be the first lady president and that will be a special moment for Hilary wins.

  • jasono-dal
    11/08/2016 - 11:05 a.m.

    This article is cool because not every body in the world gets to vote and doesnt have to vote and this is cool because they dont force you and you have a right not to keep it a secret or you can.

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