Connections: Linking Talented Educators
Connections: Linking Talented Educators

Election Day in the Classroom

October 26, 2020

Vote buttons 1000w

As Americans head to the polls, Milken Educators are using the 2020 election as a teaching opportunity. Here are a few of the election-related activities they’re doing with students in the lead-up to November 3.

Princess Francois (NY ’19)
Assistant principal | Math, Science and Engineering Academy | Brooklyn, NY

We paused our regular virtual classes to inspire and educate students about voting. “Rock the Vote”  came out of a need to educate our students about the voting process and the elections, something students have told us they wished they knew.

This year, we have been focused on embedding diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) and anti-racism into our instructional spaces. Each trimester we focus on a theme, e.g. identity, intersectionality, activism. The pandemic has given us flexibility with our schedule, and we did not want to miss the opportunity to directly educate students about the elections. A small group of teachers were passionate about getting our juniors and seniors registered or pre-registered to vote, so we partnered with an organization called Soft Power Vote for a mini-workshop. That grew into two full days of workshops. A few teachers planned and facilitated the workshops while I handled all the logistics to make the day possible.

We offered four workshops over the two days:

  • Election 101 & Election “Night” 2020
  • How Do I Know Where I Stand?
  • Fake News?
  • Why Vote?

Now we are working on a followup event in late November. We are hoping to tap students to help co-lead the workshops, so we are working with YVote, which offers youth-facilitated sessions around civic engagement. Possible topics: moving on after the election, immigration, and racial/gender/LGBTQA equity, all topics students identified in the survey we conducted after this event. In the survey, 87% of students said they learned something new, 91% left inspired in some way, and 17% would like to be involved in planning or leading workshops next time.

Princess Francois Rock the Vote 2

John Lary (LA ’15)
Social studies | C.E. Byrd High School | Shreveport, LA

My history club hosts a speaker series with local academics, writers and thinkers. In normal years we host it on campus, free and open to the public. The pandemic and the rise of Zoom culture have opened opportunities I hadn’t considered outside of our area. Renowned Harvard historian and writer Susan Ware is going to present to our club (and community) on the eve of Election Day about her new book, “Why They Marched.” The book tells the stories of 19 lesser-known suffragists and their participation in the fight to win the right to vote 100 years ago, on Election Day 2020. The presentation was scheduled to coincide with the election and remind students of the various historical fights for voting rights, and the importance and privilege of political activity today.

Brian Allman (WV ’19)
Sixth grade social studies | Buckhannon-Upshur Middle School | Buckhannon, WV

We are in the middle of a unit on U.S. government right now. It’s definitely a time to be creative as my district was blended for a while (some students in person, some studying virtually) but is now fully remote. Everything I would normally do during a presidential election year had to be modified. Equity issues when it comes to resources like internet access also make it tough to complete mock elections and other activities I would normally do.

Our current unit is focused on all three branches of government, with added emphasis on the election process and political parties. I want student to learn the process so that they can discuss and make political decisions on their own, without the bias of teachers, parents or other people. Obviously, the presidential election is at the forefront this year, but it’s also a great time to show the effect that the election can have down the ballot—Congress, the Supreme Court, state and local races. I use wonderful resources like iCivics and 270 to Win, which help me show students why this election matters to them.

Shannon Garrison (CA ’08)
Fourth and fifth grade | Stonehurst STEAM Magnet School | Sun Valley, CA

The Skirball Cultural Center has an awesome online exhibit where everyone can vote. I’m going to be using this with my students so they can be part of the process!

Skirball Center The Official Unofficial Voting Station

Becky Streff (NE ’18)
Fifth grade | North Bend Central Elementary School | North Bend, NE

We’ve been teaching about the Declaration of Independence. We have election lessons planned. A speaker is coming in to talk about the importance of the election and why voting is our civic duty, even during COVID-19. Then, with safe social distancing of course, we will hold a mock election. There are several books we read and videos we watch to help us learn about the election process and the political parties.

Silvia Miranda (NM ’18)
Fourth grade | Mesa Elementary | Clovis, NM

We are talking about the voting process—who can vote, how the electoral college works, how to learn about the candidates, etc. We had a mock candy election, where students listened to the “candydates” give speeches, then voted. We read “Grace for President” by Kelly DiPucchio. Now, based on the book, my students are preparing their own campaigns to vote for our classroom pet. They drew states to see how many electoral votes each student gets. They are writing speeches for their pets. Then we will register to vote and have our election.

Leslie Sullivan (SC 19)
High school social studies | Palmetto Scholars Academy | North Charleston, SC

We are doing a lot of current events discussions in my Government and Economics classes. I try very hard to remain neutral about politics. I generally let them lead these discussions, and I add clarifications on things like procedure.


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