Social Studies

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.

  • Tech Integration Post #7 0f 10: Using Voki’s in Social Studies

    After covering The United Nations, The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), and The Convention of the Rights Of The Child in our social studies classes this term, I successfully used Voki’s with my students to demonstrate their knowledge.

    Here’s an outline of what I had them do:

    Assignment Steps:

    1. Visit
    2. Click on the create button in the top left hand corner
    3. Next, customize your character by gender, hairstyle, and clothing
    4. Once you are happy with your character click done
    5. Now it’s time to add the voice of your character.  I would like you to make your character talk about important points you have recently learned about the United Nations
    6. You can either record your own voice or use the text to speech box.
    7. Once you’ve selected an appropriate voice for your character click done
    8. You can now publish your work – click publish
    9. You will be prompted to name your work: Use firstname and UN in capitals
    10. If you have not already created an account you will need to do so now – use your email address and DO NOT use your last name
    11. Once registered choose medium sized voki
    12. Copy all the text in the box labelled “For Most Sites Use This Code”
    13. Once you have the code for your Voki visit the following Google Document and paste your code under your name –

    Student engagement levels were particularly high during this assignment and I received some thoughtful responses.  Here’s an example…


    AC_Voki_Embed(200,267,”40fb56fdc05aa7ceb3bed7e9b22763a8″,3150442, 1, “”, 0);
    Get a Voki now!


    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

    Tech Integration Post # 2 of 10: Using Google Documents As A Collaborative Classroom Tool

    Use a Google Document spreadsheet to facilitate a collaborative class assignment.

    Example: Social Studies

    Learning Outcome example : B2 – compare Canadian society with the society of another country

    • Design a spreadsheet which compares Canadian society/culture against other societies/country throughout the world.  See template example Canadian SS template PLO B2
    • This example compares Canadian culture to other countries throughout the world
    • Once the spreadsheet is created, publish the document as a web page.  See image below

    • Google returns a very long link to the published document.  Use a URL shortener to shorten the link.  See instructions for below
    • Students then enter the (shortened) link into the URL window at the top of their browser.  They will be directed to the spreadsheet
    • Students are now able to access, create, and edit the document.
    • Your students are able to access and interact with the document at one time making it a truly collaborative effort.  Sit back and watch the document create itself.
    • Once the document is complete it can be used as a revision tool or may be used again in another subject such as math when covering data analysis and graphing.
    Copy and paste the link Google gives, to publish the website, into the website.  Click shorten. will return a short, and more manageable, URL such as  I’m sure you’ll agree that it’s much easier to remember the shortened URL.

    For those looking for an introductory lesson for the their new class next school year, a great way to get to know your class is to have them fill in this spreadsheet together: Class introduction spreadsheet.