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Sheldon J. Plankton

I understand the concerns of that parent. However, I disagree quite a bit. Having them vote as young as the 1st grade gets into their minds young that voting is very important. We are all members of society, and thus get to choose its leader.
I was in the 2nd grade for the election of 1980. My parents were supporting John Anderson. When my Mrs. Poulin gave me the ballot, I stood in the make-shift voting booth and checked the box next to "John Anderson". It's part of childhood, I guess. Why do people (like that parent) get so serious about these things? Geez.

Mr. Sugerman

I teach 2nd grade and did not have a mock election (I teach in Berkeley). Instead we discussed the election after it was over, and did some presidential art. Go check out my class blog and see it!

http://mrsugerman.blogspot.com/

JillG

I agree with Sheldon in that voting experiences at a young age impresses upon students that voting is important. Adding to that, it also promotes critical thinking among kids as early as elementary school.

If we are to be teaching students to analyze, evaluate, and synthesize, among other higher-order thinking skills, particularly in the upper grades, can't we begin that in elementary school? First-grade students may not get the issues at the same level of complexity that adults do; however, they can begin the process of deciding who they prefer and why--a process that will continue over the course of their lifetime as their thinking around voting grows. With preparation through in-class discussion and explanation, wouldn't first-graders be able to start to grasp not just the significance of voting but also what is involved when people vote?

Charlie A. Roy

In the last elementary school I was principal at we had the joy of creating student government. Through collaboration the leadership team decided fourth grade seemed like the appropriate age to begin participation in sending delegates to the student senate.

I don't know of a magic cut off but it seems fourth graders can begin to grasp issues and seems like an appropriate time for participation in mock presidential elections.

Having younger students vote for favorite meals, holidays, activities etc. seems like a great way to teach introductory democracy.

Dave Sherman

In our elementary school, we decided that it was very important for us to take students through a real-life election process, but we all agreed to not use the actual presidential candidates. Instead, we created an authentic voting experience in which the students voted for our whole-school philanthropy project. Our fifth graders researched different charities, and they campaigned for their charities throughout the school. All of the students completed voter registration forms, they all received voter cards, they all voted in a primary, and finally, they all voted in a general election to chose the charity.

The election was a success from the standpoint that we were able to teach the election process and choose a noble cause for us to support throughout the year. There is now real student buy-in to our philanthropy project! Here is a post from my blog if you are interested in reading about this election project in more detail.

http://blog109.org/communities/dsherman/archive/2008/10/28/36616.aspx

Addie Gaines

Our K-3 kids participated in Kids Vote Online. I think that although they did not totally understand the issues, they can learn that voting is very important. They also get to participate in something that they see as "grown-up." They want to be a part of what is going on around them. I explained to them that you had to be 18 to vote for real and these votes didn't count, but it would be interesting to see who won at our school and school district and state and compare it with the real results. We gave out "I voted" stickers like at the polls. The kids were very proud of themselves. I think it just gives them a positive view of the importance of voting at the very least.

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