Service Learning Projects

Student Vote: Giving Youth A Voice

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It is never too early to empower our youth.  As an elementary school educator in Chilliwack, British Columbia I have been involved with Student Vote for 4 years.  In 2009, my principal at the time called me into his office and handed me a box that he had ordered from Student Vote and asked me if I wanted to run an election with my grade 5-6 class.  In the back of mind I could hear my dad’s familiar rhetoric, one he used to inspire my siblings and I around voting time, “Women chained themselves to fences for the right to vote…” He was trying to impress upon me the need to honour those who have gone before me in the struggle to have their opinions recognized.  I took the package from my principal and started a journey to demystify the election process and remind my students that their voices need to be heard.

My students and I have now participated in the 2009 provincial election, the 2010 federal election, the 2011 Chilliwack-Hope by-election, and will be joining thousands of schools voting in the 2013 Provincial election.

When I host an election at school, I like to invite all candidates to present to my students before they make their final decision on student voting day.  If you are considering hosting a Student Vote election I would say the opportunities for authentic learning experiences are second to none.

Here are my top 9 tips for hosting a Student Vote election:

  1. Contact candidates early – their schedules can fill up quickly

  2. Stop by campaign offices and introduce yourself.  Candidates are more likely to agree when they hear you are reminding students of their rights and responsibilities as Canadian citizens

  3. If you need contact information for your candidates try contacting your local newspaper

  4. Use Ustream to stream your presentation live to participating schools in your riding

  5. Encourage parent participation by inviting them to watch the candidates speak.  Here is a sample letter I sent out this year

  6. Engage your students in the process by collecting campaign materials and information on party platforms

  7. Debrief what each candidate has spoken about and display the information so students are able to make their final decision

  8. Recreate a polling station in your classroom/school and have your students use election resources like privacy screens, ballot boxes and ballots to recreate voting day

  9. Compare and contrast the results of student voting day to actual results in your riding

Student’s getting excited about the election buzz:

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  • “We have to stop delivering the curriculum to kids.  We have to start discovering it with them.” – Will Richardson.

  • TED Talks for Kids in B.C.

    As an elementary educator who encourages student involvement in many aspects of the education system, not just in the classroom, I am incredibly excited about the  independent TED event coming to Vancouver in September of this year.  TEDxKids BC is scheduled for Saturday September 17th, 2011 in Vancouver and will showcase student achievement and celebrate empowerment of students in our education system.  In a similar fashion to the larger and more prestigious TED Talks, TEDxKids BC showcases ordinary students and allows them a platform to share their experiences and inspire others to follow their dreams.

    The organizers of TEDxKids BC are still looking for awe-inspiring kids who meet some of the following requirements:

    • Someone who has created a project that has made other people take notice and say: “Wow — what an amazing thing to do!”
    • Perhaps a kid who has helped others without thinking of him or herself — someone who just jumped in to lend a helping hand — and then perhaps the project grew and others liked the idea so much, that they too wanted to get involved.
    • Or maybe a speaker has a talent that they would like to share. They could tell the audience about how they developed this talent — or the effect they see in others when they perform.
    If you can have a student in your class already, or know of a student that would fit well into some of the categories above, and would like to nominate himher then please fill out the this form.
    You can also follow and promote TEDxKids BC through the following social media sites:

    Free The Children: My Students Are The Change

    Since attending my first We Day in Vancouver this year I have been amazed by all the people at Free The Children and their sister organization MeToWe.  Everything about the organization from the top down to the bottom is solely focus on creating opportunities for students around the world to be become aware of local and global issues, and to take action.  They do this with an adrenaline charged message that is impactful and long-lasting to our youth.

    Free The Children make it easy for educators to create awareness and encourage students to stand up and speak out.  The educator resources can be used in many subject areas including social studies, health and career education, mathematics, and language arts.  The lesson plans are ready-made, easy to follow, well prepared, and are easily adapted or modified.  If that isn’t enough, when you contact Free The Children they will connect you with a highly motivated program coordinator who is well-educated, knowledgeable, great with students, and ready to assist the delivery of Free The Children’s message to your classroom/school whenever you need them.  Program coordinators have offered resources, small group sessions, presentations in assemblies, and support to students in delivery of the program.

    A Calendar of Action

    Throughout the school year Free The Children have carefully created opportunities for youth to become more aware of local and global issues around the world.  Most of their campaigns centre around creating awareness around Children’s Rights. Here’s a brief list of awareness campaigns:

    Here’s how We Day Vancouver and  Free The Children inspired two grade 5/6 classrooms at Central Elementary Community School in Chilliwack, British Columbia to BE THE CHANGE!

    Halloween For Hunger at Central Elementary Community School:

    • Instead of, or as well as, collecting candy on Halloween, students collected non-perishable foods items to donate to the local food bank
    • We set a goal of collecting 200 items of non-perishable food
    • Students used their social networks to get the message out
    • They told their friends and family members
    • They distributed flyers informing the community of their actions
    • They dressed in costume and collected with care
    • We collected over 630 items of non-perishable food
    • We smashed our goal!

    Vow Of Silence At Central Elementary Community School:

    • Students went silent for the day in support of all children around the world whose Rights are violated
    • They arrived at school with tape over their mouths, with homemade badges, and colourfully designed t-shirts
    • The rest of the school were shocked by their actions and wanted to know more
    • Both grade 5/6 teachers structured their day to honour all participating students
    • The day was a complete success with many students remaining silent for the whole day.
    • The message was clear and well understood.  Children’s Rights should always be followed and never taken for granted