As the election drew closer and educators thought about how much information their younger students must be getting bombarded with, local Jewish schools took the opportunity to educate children from pre-school to elementary about the voting process and the presidential election.
“A couple months ago, I was very concerned about all the negativity that has been surrounding this election — the lack of civility, the bullying,” said Ilene Meister, director of early childhood education (ECE) at the Rosenbloom Owings Mills JCC. “I was wondering how that would impact the children because they will be hearing parents talk and watching television, so I decided that I really wanted to make this a positive experience for the children because this election really is about their future.”
Her goal was to set a good standard for the students, enable them to understand that it is important to vote and that they each have a voice. In class, students learned about what a president does, about the importance of voting and that someday they might have to advocate for a candidate or cause of their choice.
“We created little voting booths for the kids to go to,” said Meister. “We didn’t talk so much about the candidates, it was more about the process.”
It is worth noting that students in the ECE are voting for the actual candidates in the election. Deciding whether or not to do so was highly contentious, but Meister wanted to make the mock election as realistically as possible.
“We discussed who these candidates were and what their positions were in terms of their titles,” she explained. “We looked at Trump was a businessman, at how Clinton was an activist. We just addressed what their job was, we wanted the students to understand that they too, at some point, could be president of the United States.”
Students learned that they had a choice — that not every country allows their citizens to have a choice and because of that, it is a duty and responsibility to vote. Polling in the ECE involved the kids going into the voting center with a voter registration card, circling a candidate in a private booth and taking a sticker that says “I Voted.”
“We have to remember that we are voting for the future of these children and we have to embrace it,” said Meister. “Many schools are avoiding the election like the plague, but children are assaulted by everything from bumper stickers to TV ads, so we want to let them learn about the subject in a positive way rather than keeping it hush-hush.”
Students in the Krieger Schechter Day School’s lower school also participated in a school-wide election unit that included primary elections in the Sweet and Salty parties, a third-party candidate — celery sticks represented the Green Party — and explored issues such as democracy, voting rights, campaigning, branches of government and the election process. Students voted on a referendum to choose what local charity should receive last year’s student council surplus, and decided to donate the surplus to fighting hunger.
Election 2016 Coverage: