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.

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