Thompson elementary students hold mock election

By Denise Coffey - Staff Writer
Thompson - posted Mon., Nov. 12, 2012
Jacob Loflin, Matthew Weiss, Isaiah Lapointe and Alyssa Leveille shared their decision-making process. Photos by D. Coffey.
Jacob Loflin, Matthew Weiss, Isaiah Lapointe and Alyssa Leveille shared their decision-making process. Photos by D. Coffey.

The presidential election provided a perfect backdrop for a multi-disciplinary lesson in civic responsibility at the Mary R. Fisher Elementary School in Thompson. Teachers there used the occasion to engage their students from kindergarten through grade four in history, math, vocabulary, reading, writing and art lessons. The culmination was a lesson in participatory democracy, as all students and teachers voted for the presidential candidate of their choice.

Students in all grades reviewed articles in “Scholastic News” publications. Each publication was designed with an appropriate grade level in mind. For students in grades four through six, “Scholastic News” dedicated 31 pages to the election process, including information on the candidates, their campaigns, their positions on four major issues, the electoral college, voting rights and facts, and the democratic process at work in the U.S.

For younger students, “Scholastic News” published a cover story about where candidates Mitt Romney and Barack Obama stood on four major issues facing the country. Brief outlines of each man's position on the economy, healthcare, the war and education were given so that students could learn to form their own opinions. Beth Sycamore's “First Kids” from Celebration Press took a look at living in the White House from a child's perspective.

Class discussions, vocabulary quizzes and written reports led up to the climax of actual voting. Pictures of Mitt Romney and Barack Obama were posted on the walls of the hallways. “Who will you vote for?” was written in large print underneath. On Nov. 6, when millions of citizens went to the polls, so did the students at Mary R. Fisher. Grade by grade, the kids visited a voting booth to cast their ballot for president. Using a refrigerator box donated by Bousquet Appliances in Danielson and decorated by art teacher Erica Connolly, the students voted one by one. They walked through a gauntlet of flags, and behind the privacy of a red shower curtain, cast their votes.

Fourth-grader Jacob Loflin was confident when he came out of the voting booth. “I based my decision on what they would do to help America get better,” he said. “One is better than the other.”

Alyssa Leveille said that, for her, the economy was a big issue. “I want someone who can make more jobs,” she said. She also wanted the candidate who would help education, the people in Afghanistan and the country's war effort.

For Matthew Weiss, the choice was an important one. “I based my vote on the job issue. I knew I had to make up my mind and pick one because there are a lot of people in America without jobs. They need them to keep their houses.”

Fourth-grade teacher Amanda Zadora said her students were split leading right up to election day. One of her students told her he was still torn about who to vote for on his way to the voting booth. “The kids obviously speak from their parents' opinions,” she said. “They come right out and tell you who is the best candidate. They also spoke from their own experiences. “We have a couple of kids whose parents are sick and they don't have health insurance. The bills are astronomical,” she said. “So we had a couple of kids sharing that with us. It's hard times for many families.”

She covered education and the war with her students. “It was very divided,” she said. “Some believed what Mitt Romney was saying. Some believed what Barack Obama was saying. It was interesting.”

The winner of the mock election was announced before students left at the end of the day. The final tally put Barack Obama back into office with 293 votes, to Romney’s 175 votes. Principal Noveline Beltram said the kids seemed to have a knack for predicting winners. “They also picked the winner of the 2008 presidential race,” she said.

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