Civic Responsibility and Elections

This week the students learned about civic responsibility and the importance of voting.  The students loved this lesson!  The lesson was split into three parts.  The first part was a lesson to convey the importance of participating in one’s community and the chaos that ensues when no one participates.  The students arrived to their classroom and found the tables overturned and the chairs thrown across the floor:

The students were told to “have a seat” without much more direction.  Some of the students turned over the chairs and sat down, while others sat on the floor near the chairs or even tried to sit on the bottom of the tables.  We told the students to throw their trash on the floor and that the lesson was going to be writing for one full hour about the Constitution.  The students were told they could not speak or ask questions and if they did they would be sent to the principal’s office!  Needless to say, the students sat quietly, albeit confused, and began to write.  (They are such good students!)  After a few minutes we stopped the unhappy and confused writers and began to discuss what had occurred in our Kids’ Court community.  The students understood the benefit of being able to participate and agreed that they could have improved our community by picking up the tables and trash.  We asked the students what we could have done to improve the community and they all agreed that we should have answered their questions about the room and helped to clean up too.

After a short discussion of ways the students thought they could participate in their community, we began a conversation about voting.  The students were asked if they could define words such as,  “Platform,” “Parties,” “Debate,” “Booth,” “Ballot,” and several more.  They had some great ideas and eventually we worked together to define all of the words.  Once the students understood the process of an election, the law student teachers stood up to run for the position of Kids’ Court President!  One of the teachers taught the students to applaud what they liked in each candidate’s platform and be silent for what they didn’t like.  My favorite part of this process was when one of the candidates explained that his goal was that all of the students in Kids’ Court would go to college and so he was going to ask them to do more writing — every student applauded with such excitement because they want to go to college too!  It was such a great moment.

The catch for the election was that only one person was “allowed” to vote.  The students realized immediately that this was unfair and that they all should be allowed to vote (even though they aren’t 18, the students felt that by 8 years old, people should be able to vote!) .  The student who voted considered the candidates very carefully and she took into consideration what each candidate was going to do to improve the Kids’ Court community.  Her one vote was well spent and the best candidate won.  After seeing the law student teachers go through the election process, the students are excited to have an election of their own.  Next week, we are going to help the students create platforms and campaign to ultimately have an election of their own.

The final portion of the lesson was a word scramble of all of the vocabulary words we had discussed about elections.  The students worked together and were able to figure out all of the words.  It is so wonderful to see how bright and engaged the students are.  This lesson was so much fun for both the students and the teachers!