Mock election teaches Elmwood Park students civic responsibility
Samantha Corral, working as an election judge, registers another prospective voter. John Mills School hosted a mock presidential election Friday morning. | Jon Langham~for Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 9, 2012 6:38AM
ELMWOOD PARK — Elmwood Park elementary school students know what it takes to be informed voters.
In anticipation of Election Day, Elmwood and John Mills schools hosted a mock presidential election Nov. 2 to give first through sixth grade students a lesson in civic responsibility.
But just like in a real election, some preparation was needed before hitting the polls.
In early October, students completed voter registration forms and began learning about election issues. Elmwood sixth graders worked with technology teacher Paul Uhler to research the presidential candidates online.
“They heard some things about Sesame Street,” Uhler said. “We wanted them to get the full picture.”
Students used educational websites to search for accurate and unbiased information. Their research culminated in a school-wide assembly for all grade levels, offering the candidates’ stances on issues such as the economy, education and health care.
Elmwood teacher Jamie Kanas said her fourth grade class was impressed with their older peers.
“It was a great conversation starter,” she said. “It wasn’t an argument. It was, ‘Here are the facts, you decide.’”
Kanas also saw the national election as an opportunity to teach her students about the Electoral College. In the classroom, she assigned each student to a state and had them cast and tally electoral votes in a runoff between Coca-Cola and Pepsi.
Kanas said the activities were educational and inspiring. Some students have calculated how many presidential elections are left until they can vote.
“Even though they’re very young, they do have opinions,” Kanas said. “They do have a very strong sense of justice and what is right or wrong.”
During the mock election, student council members serving as judges checked in voters before they cast ballots via computers. The schools announced the results Monday morning, with Barack Obama receiving more than 80 percent of the vote.
Enrichment Coordinator Sharon Collins said keeping the voting process as realistic as possible helps inspire future involvement.
“I think it’s important to encourage students to become members of a community,” she said. “Hopefully they carry this over as adults and will be informed, intelligent voters.”
Fourth grade student Katie Osborne, 9, said participating in the mock election and learning the differences between popular and electoral votes was fun.
“I really liked it,” she said. “I’m really excited to find out who will win.”
Osborne, who said she voted for Mitt Romney, has also picked up on another Election Day tradition: secrecy.
“I’ve been asking my mom, ‘Who are you voting for?’ but she says ‘I won’t tell you,’” she said.