Olentangy Valley News

Olentangy students get taste of democratic process

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

While their parents headed to the polls Tuesday, Nov. 6, some Olentangy students got a taste of the Election Day excitement at school.

In the past week, several elementary schools have hosted student voting activities to get youngsters thinking about the elections process.

At Tyler Run Elementary School, students in grades K-5 spent time in the classroom learning about the presidential race, then cast votes Friday, Nov. 2, for either President Barack Obama or candidate Mitt Romney as part of a national social studies program called Studies Weekly.

Six polling stations were set up in the school's library and classes took turns filing in to vote throughout the day.

Fourth-grade teacher Lauren Funk said the activity encourages children to consider the importance of voting from an early age.

"It gives them an opportunity to see that they do have a voice, and that their opinion does count," she said. "Your vote does make a difference."

The elections process already is part of the district's fourth-grade government unit. This year, teachers tied in age-appropriate lessons on the presidential election. Students completed projects, read nonfiction articles and watched video clips.

"We want them to understand that it's not just about what your parents think, or what your friends think," Funk said. "You need to be informed and understand that these decisions impact you and the rest of the country before you cast your vote."

The results of the Tyler Run election were announced on Election Day at the school, with Romney earning 212 votes to Obama's 197. Students also got the chance to compare their school's results with those from other schools throughout the state and country.

Other Olentangy schools steered clear of the presidential election but still gave students a chance to speak their mind.

At Walnut Creek Elementary School, students voted Nov. 6 to name a new school mascot.

Students used computer polling stations to choose between two names -- Wally or Webster -- for a new otter mascot.

Librarian Laura Laughbaum said the activity gave students a chance to vote without sending mixed messages about the presidential race.

"It's hard when we're telling the kids in the classroom that the election is an adult decision and not to talk about it during class, but we still wanted to give them the opportunity to vote."

Word-of-mouth polling pegged Webster as the early favorite, Laughbaum said Monday, Nov. 5.

Students at Arrowhead Elementary School also got a chance to vote last week.

Third-, fourth- and fifth-grade students picked their favorite from among three books by children's author Michael Patrick O'Neill, who was scheduled to visit the school Wednesday, Nov. 7.

Students got a voter registration card, then cast their votes on school computers. Each student received an "I Voted" sticker to wear for the day.

"The students really enjoyed the opportunity to participate in the voting process and cast their votes," Megan Pennell, the school's intervention specialist, wrote in an email exchange.

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