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Students learn political lessons

By Bryan Marshall

They aren’t quite 18, but that did not stop local elementary students from making their vote heard.

Kindergarten and fifth graders were just two of the groups of students at Crittenden-Mt. Zion Elementary who headed to the polls Nov. 2 to choose a president.

Using a makeshift voting booth, one-by-one, the students circled the photo of the candidate they wanted for president.
After they cast their ballot into a baby wipe container, they received an American flag sticker, symbolizing that they voted.

In fifth grade, Republican challenger Gov. Mitt Romney handily beat President Barack Obama by a margin of 59 percent to 38 percent with 3 percent voting in the “other” category.
The outcome was the same for CMZ’s kindergartners, although by a much slimmer margin.

Romney received 48 votes while Obama fell short with 40 votes.
Ten absent students could have shifted the outcome of the election, said Amanda Newman, CMZ Elementary kindergarten teacher.
“We thought that the mock election was important to give our students a voice in the world around them,” Newman said. “We feel that our students need to be aware of what is going on in their world after all it is their future too. It was interesting to hear what they had to say about the two presidential choices. They were influenced by their peers and families.”

Newman said the teachers talked about how voting was a personal choice that each person had to make based on what they believed was the right decision.

Although they did not go into the stances of the two presidential candidates, teachers did encourage the students to talk to their families about the election and their views.
“I think that my students understood the election and they were so proud of themselves after they voted in our voting booth,” Newman said. “It was neat to see how some students talked openly about who they voted for and others were quiet about their decision. We made the day special by letting students dress patriotic in red, white, and blue or dress up. We even had one student that said that he dressed up like Obama. He had on a dress shirt with a tie. I played patriotic songs and we sang ‘America the Beautiful.’”

 Williamstown Elementary got into the election spirit as well by casting their ballots on Ipads, whiling voting on student council members.

To make the election more realistic, each grade level was given one electoral vote and whoever had the most votes for that grade was the representative for that grade.  

“This provided a great conservation piece for the students to have a better understanding of how the actual process works,” said Deanna Wynn, WES fifth grade teacher. “The electoral voting is one of the hardest concepts for the students to understand.”

Romney won the popular vote, but Obama was re-elected by capturing the electoral vote at Williamstown Elementary.
In kindergarten, two classes chose Obama while one went with Romney while the four first-grade classes were split between the two candidates.

Romney had a 2-1 edge in second-grade classes, but Obama won the third-grade electoral vote by the same margin.
Fourth graders chose Obama 2-1 as well with Romney sweeping all three fifth-grade classes.

With the electoral vote, Obama won 3-2, but in the popular vote, Romney won 201 votes to 162 with 27 students undecided.
“I was surprised with how the results actually turned out,” Wynn said. “I planned on just going by popular vote. However, once the votes started coming in, I noticed that the data was going to be a little different.”

Throughout the experience, the students learned everything from branches of government to primaries and discussed major topics such as health care, education and the economy.
“Since I have been old enough, I have voted,” Wynn said. “I am very passionate about doing your civic duty to better your city, state and country. That is your one chance to have a say. This project gets the students involved in what is going on in the world around them. This project lets them practice voting and it encourages them to participate in their civic duty.”

“It will be interesting to see how the actual election will turn out,” she said. “I am very excited and a lot of my students are excited as well.”
The mock election wasn’t the only real-life experience the elementary students participated in.

For the first time, WES also held a debate during school for the two candidates for student council — Emma Gutman and Cody Wolfe.
Real issues impacting students, including fundraising, bullying, the use of electronic devices in class and attendance, were discussed between the candidates and fourth and fifth graders listened.
Principal David Poer, who moderated the debate, made sure the students knew the importance of voting for real when they were old enough.

“As a citizen, we have a great and grand privilege to vote for who we think is the best person,” Poer said to the students. “Not everyone can say that.”