With the goal of teaching students the elements of political campaigns, polls, debates, advertising and responsibility to community and nation, seventh grade students and staff are participating in an Election 2008 unit in all of their core classes that recreates all aspects of the presidential and senate campaigns.
Three elections ago, the social studies teachers at West Middle School approached the other teachers on the building’s teams with the idea of a large interdisciplinary election unit. “We asked our teammates to give up a week of teaching their standard curriculum and totally focus on the election and they willingly agreed,” said WMS history teacher Megan Speers. “The result was students became more actively involved and knowledgeable about the election than most adults,” she said.
“When we asked teachers to do it again this year, not one person hesitated to say yes,” said Speers.
In U.S. history classes, all students play an assigned role in the campaigns including the candidates, secret service agents/security detail, reporters, key advisors, campaign workers and campaign managers. Students are required to perform the specific duties of each of these roles.
In language arts, students learn about the different types of political advertising techniques and evaluate current ads. Each campaign creates a television commercial, leaflets, posters and announcements as well as a plan for distributing these messages throughout the election week.
In math, students become pollsters and the Electoral College analysis center. Each party creates effective polls to gather information on the issues and their candidate’s progress. They also review the validity of polls and debate the role of the Electoral College in campaigns.
In science, students study effective methods of debate and speech and watch the candidates participate in debates and rallies and analyze characteristics of effective public speaking. Issue groups write speech segments for their candidate to use during “town hall” meetings and the candidates practice for the “town hall” meetings and receive feedback from the rest of the class.
The election week for the project runs from October 27-31 with a town hall meeting planned for November 3 at 11 a.m. and a school-wide election on Tuesday, November 4. Students are allowed to vote before school or during lunch and results are announced at the end of the day.
“The enthusiasm that students have for the election is amazing. One hears debates happening in the lunchroom, in encore classes and during passing time,” said WMS social studies teacher Mandy Kraus about the experience.