Since today is Election Day, I wanted to focus on the reasons we have elections and why they are so important. My sources for information were students from Lincoln, Garfield and Eugene Field elementary schools.

Having talked to other adults, listened to the news and read newspapers, I couldn’t get past people’s apathy, wrong information and the total lack of interest among adults about the election and the candidates. This was quite different when I talked to students. They were all very excited about the election. They had their own ideas and reasons why they would vote for Barack Obama or Mitt Romney. They relayed to me how important it is to vote and why you should research the candidate and not just listen to other people.

Lincoln students from second to fifth grades, had the opportunity to vote Oct. 30 in a mock election. Every Kid Votes is a program offered to schools across the nation. For a small fee, a school’s administration can sign up for their school to participate. The votes are tallied and kept track of by, and the local kids can see how their vote counted and how it compared to others across the nation. The Every Kid Votes material had a quote that I think reinforces why this kind of program is so important. In it, Richard Dreyfuss said, “We need to teach our kids how to run the country before it’s their turn to run the country.”

The teachers at Lincoln used many different resources to teach students about the election. Many used online curriculum and the schools’ SMART Boards to teach and lead discussions about the importance of voting, the candidates, the platforms of the candidates and where and how to vote. When I asked the students questions, they answered with excitement and had very definite opinions. They seemed to have a really good grasp of the election and the candidates.  

Teachers at Garfield also covered the election and candidates in many different ways. The fifth-graders used graphics to learn about them. Linda Fredericks, librarian, taught about each candidate’s qualifications during library time. One teacher used “wanted” posters to teach the students what a good candidate would have as far as skills and strengths.

Jackie Steelman and Sherry Underwood came up with a unique way to teach all aspects of the election process by using the program, ”Election of Candy.” The students chose four candidates for their Election of Candy election (Twix, M&Ms, Starbursts and Pixie Stix). The students then had different jobs campaigning for these candidates. They had a primary election, learning about why you have a primary election and how to campaign for such an election. They formed their party, their platform, wrote speeches and delivered them at the convention for each party. Some groups wrote commercials, made videos and campaigned for their favorite candidate. The winner was Twix. What a clever way to teach all of the aspects of an election using something all kids love.

Eugene Field students had the opportunity to use Every Kid Votes and each teacher stressed the how, why, where and when of the election process. In addition to this, however, fourth- and fifth-graders presented a program, “Vote 2012” Thursday. It was a delightful musical review about our freedom to vote and how we gained that freedom. It showcased America from the beginning of immigration to the present election.

I was able to interview the video director, Thomas Marpin, a fourth-grader. He told me he learned a lot doing the program and also in his social studies class. He was delighted to tell me he learned the same thing in two classes. “How cool is that?” he said.

I think one song said it best for all of us. We are Americans, and we are small, but we are the future of the land we love.

Thank you to the teaching staff for all they did for our students so they could learn to be better-informed citizens and for giving them the opportunity to learn about our elections.

Marge Stevens is an Ottawa school board member.