One of the craziest days of my school career is over. This was not my first mock election but it was definitely the most ambitious and involved. Everything went really well but I had no idea how much I was going to be needed to keep it running during the day. Here’s what we did…
No Real Issues – We made a decision early on not to include real election issues in our own. I don’t see much value in having students vote for an actual presidential candidate when most/all of them are just going to vote for whoever their parents are voting for. That’s not an election, it’s a popularity contest. It’s one of the reasons I’ll never tell my daughters (much to my oldest’s chagrin) who I vote for. An election should be about ideas that are relevant to the voters. So we came up with some ballot items that would impact our students lives.
- A new mascot – We are redesigning our tiger mascot and narrowed it down to 2 design choices for the students to vote on.
- A new spirit day – Crayon Day (wear your favorite color) or Hat Day
- Inflatables – Every year on field day, we have 2 stations with inflatables; 1 slide and 1 obstacle course. One of our P.E. teachers did a little research and found that we had some choices that were within our price range so we let the students pick which designs we would have at the end of the year this year.
I think this was a good decision and maybe some day when adults can have some civil discourse on something as simple as choosing the leader of the free world, we’ll reincorporate it back into our own elections but for now, I think that’s a world our students don’t need to be a part of.
Election Committee – We had nine 4th grade students make up our election committee. They worked after school and during lunch/recess to create everything. One student created our online registration form and electronic ballots using Google Docs’ forms function. These worked really well. We were able to create a series of multiple choice questions on the ballots and restrict them to a single answer. Getting the final results for our election took a total of 2 minutes the next morning as Google Docs graphed all the answers out for us in 2 clicks of the mouse.
Voting Booths – Our librarian, who was one of 2 other teachers to co-plan the election with me, called the Lake County Election office and managed to get them to lend us some heavy duty cardboard voting booths. The kids loved them. It made the experience a little more authentic for them, especially if they were lucky enough to have gone to the polling place with their parents before school. The booths were a little on the tall side so we borrowed some mats from the P.E. teachers for our younger students to stand on while they voted. The mats also created a nice barrier to keep waiting students back far enough so that they couldn’t see what the person in front of them was voting for.
Inside each voting booth was an iPad on a keyboard stand and a piece of paper with pictures of each ballot item. Google Docs doesn’t let us put images next to the questions so the paper was needed as a reference for students who hadn’t made up their minds or couldn’t remember the names of the things they were voting for. The keyboard was used only as a stand. We could have used picture frame stands but the space bar made it easy to wake up the iPads that had gone to sleep between classes.
The Schedule – We scheduled classes in 15 minute blocks to vote. Though they couldn’t be there all the time, most of the day, we had members of the election committee coming down to help out in shifts of 2. 1 member would check in voters by rubber stamping their voter registration cards while the other would help students who were having trouble with the ballot. This system worked very well and the committee were amazing.
Stickers! – Unlike regular voting in Lake County this year, we gave out stickers to everyone who voted. Our principal bought them for around $6.00 a roll and we have a few thousand left over. I hope they’re still sticky in 4 years.
I’ve been using Google Docs at home for the last few years now but it was a lot of fun to see how quickly my students took to it and how much they were able to get done collaboratively online. I don’t think we could have done this project 4 years ago to the degree we did this year. I’m hoping more of our teachers will find the value in it that we did during the last couple of weeks.
I’m already planning for 2016.