Each election year since 2000, the students in Berg Middle School’s Social Studies classes have participated a bit more actively in their election curriculum by holding a mock election.
The election mirrors the national election as closely as possible, requiring students to register to “vote” weeks in advance, verifying their identity at the polls, and casting secret ballots at their polling location — which just happened to be Berg’s Library Media Center, complete with a TV streaming CNN, red, white and blue streamers and plenty of oatmeal cookies for hungry voters.
According to Social Studies teacher Gary Larson, the activity serves as more than just a hands-on wrap-up of the students’ election unit.
“The goal is to get participation with our kids as voters when they’re old enough to vote,” Larson said. “About a quarter of our eighth graders will be old enough to vote when they’re seniors.”
On the ballot for the middle schoolers were presidential candidates along with choices for Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District and Iowa House District 29.
“We want them to feel a part of something bigger in our country,” Larson added.
Eighth-grader Hannah Yeager felt just this after submitting her ballot.
“You get to know how the voting process works for when you actually need to vote,” she said. “It’s cool to be able to put your opinion in, even though it doesn’t really count for anything.”
“It’s kind of cool we get to learn about the election in such a fun way,” eighth-grader Courtney Jacobsen added. “This is really hands-on instead of just learning from a book, and I learn better that way.”
While the election process was more involved that eighth-grader Nathan Tremel expected, he enjoyed voicing his opinion.
“It feels like you actually have a say in what goes on in the country,” he said.
While the students learned the full Electoral College election process, their election was simply held to a popular vote. According to Larson, his students’ opinions have aligned with the national presidential outcome for the last three elections.
How did they fare this time around?
This election proved to be no different: after all the votes had been tallied, Obama emerged victorious with 305 votes over Romney’s 118.
Nicole Wiegand can be contacted at (641) 792-3121 ext. 422 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.