Current Events in the Lab

Last week was Election Week and not just any election but a Presidential Election. I took advantage of that and the free videos on BrainPop (probably won’t be free forever) and spent some time talking about elections, citizenship, voting, the Presidential Candidates and the reasons why this election was of major historical significance with all of my classes from Kindergarten through 8th Grade.

The youngest grades learned about symbols of the United States and colored pictures of symbols of the Democratic and Republican parties and other election related pictures in KidPix. The older grades learned more about the process of electing a president and the responsibilities of being a citizen and voting. Many of them also played some election games at Scholastic News Online: Election 2008 and Weekly Reader Election 2008. 7th and 8th Grade also learned about the Electoral College and how it works and created a spreadsheet model of an “electoral” breakdown of the votes at the school. Since we didn’t have states to use for this, the population of each class determined how many electoral votes that class received. Each class had 1 electoral vote for every 5 students in the class.

After the videos and introduction to the candidates, each student had the opportunity to vote for their choice for President & Vice President in our Voting Booth. The older students reviewed the candidates stand on issues as they waited to vote. Each student chose their class (which was used to calculate “electoral” votes) and then clicked on the picture of the candidates that they wanted to win.

Voting Booth

With 96% of the students voting, John McCain was the winner with 50% of the popular vote. 7th and 8th Grade discovered that while McCain received 50% of the popular vote using an “electoral” system resulted in his winning 60% of the electoral vote.

I was somewhat surprised that many of even the youngest students knew who the major candidates were. I was also impressed that quite a few of the older students really spent time looking at the issues site before they voted. At one point last week I was talking to the mother of one of my Kindergarten students and she was telling me how her daughter came home and was telling her all about the candidates for President. That’s the kind of thing I hoped would happen and I’m glad that it did.

It amazes me that more people did not vote in this election but it always amazes me that so many eligible voters do not go to the polls on Election Day. I knew we wouldn’t approach the 96% turnout that we had at school but it saddened me that the number of people voting did not increase significantly from 2004. Maybe in 2012 this will change.