Thursday, 13 October 2011

Engaging Young People in the Vote

In my grade 5 class, the students are learning about Canadian government and citizenship in their Social Studies unit. When I think back to my junior years in elementary school, I do not remember learning about our government, how it plays a role in society or about the responsibilities of citizenship, let alone what it is. I was fascinated when I learned about what the grade 5 students were going to be participating in last Thursday ...

When I first entered the classroom, I noticed a bulletin board, filled with information about the upcoming provincial election; there were newspaper articles, campaign posters, party paraphernalia and information on voting and aspects of the political election. There was also a poster from Student Vote, which I am embarrassed to say I have never heard of before. Just to explain what it is, quoting from their website (in case there are others out there like me), it is a non-profit, non-partisan organization that works with teachers to deliver learning opportunities to help young Canadians understand and practice the responsibilities of their citizenship. Basically, over the course of the election campaign, students participate in activities and projects in the classroom to learn about the election and electoral process, democracy and government which leads to a sense and understanding of civic duty and the responsibilities of our citizenship in Canada. It was amazing to see how passionate and involved the students in the class were whether it was bringing in materials to add to the bulletin board, discussing the different platforms of the various candidates and engaging in projects that furthered their understanding of the candidates and what their platforms were. I especially enjoyed discussing with each student who they were campaigning for (through the creation of their own political posters for the candidate of their choice) and why because a lot of them had a vast understanding of the party representatives and their goals and taught me some things I was unaware of.

I was extremely disappointed that I was not there to see Student Vote Day take place last Wednesday, but from speaking with my associate teacher, the students truly enjoyed being able to take part in the voting process. The teacher had a list with all of the students’ names, had the students line up outside of the classroom and come in one at a time, identify themselves and then proceed to the ballot box where they cast their vote … just like any voting age adult would do when they cast their vote. Afterwards, the ballots were counted and a winner was elected, the NDP party for the Hamilton Mountain riding. I could not wait to see if their votes would match their voting age counterparts and that night I found out that eerily enough, the vote was the same and the NDP candidate was elected. Crazy how that works. I think this is an extremely useful tool for the classroom, especially because there has been such a decrease in voting turnout. Getting students involved and aware beginning at a young age will encourage them to stay involved, aware and accountable.