January 27, 2021

Middle school TAG students leading the charge in mock election process

FONTANELLE — Students at Nodaway Valley Middle School are becoming very familiar with the process of electing a new U.S. president because they’re going through a mock election season led by Talent and Gifted students and TAG coordinator, Laura Britten.

Britten said that because the opportunity to teach these things in a hands on way only comes every four years with the general elections, now was the time to take advantage of it.

“It presented a good time to learn about it. I don’t think kids really understand how our president is elected. I wanted to really go through the whole process with them, not only with my whole class, but once we got talking about it we really thought it would benefit all the students in the school. We wanted to do something that everybody would be excited about and participate in,” Britten said.

Party tickets going forward, a Facebook post by the school said, are Perry the Platypus and Donkey from Shrek for the Optimistic Party, Bob Ross and the Black Panther for the Meme Party and Shaggy and MegaMind for the Default Party.

The Optimistic Party’s platform includes homeless shelters in every town, $20 per month to each citizen, reduce the school day by one hour, littering is punishable by jail time, polluters are taxed more, conservation money is increased to tree people, a new holiday would be called Conservation Day Nov. 13, more camps for refugees would be built here, limit animal abuse and make North Korea illegal or be more aggressive toward countries that violate human rights.

The Meme Party’s platform spreads free Doritos across America, free Bob Ross paintings for anyone, donation websites for tree planting, protect the earth and provide bins for cleaning and recycling, create more police stations, free Gucci slides, schools provide supplies for students and teachers and lower gas prices.

The Default Party’s platform improves law enforcement with more funding, lowers food prices, puts more malls across America, lowers taxes, reforms schools with changing the types of classes offered and hiring more teachers, banning all horror entertainment, lowering child abuse by installing cameras in every home monitored by the FBI, free cart rides at the malls and an annual purge where everything is legal for 12 hours.

The candidates, political parties and their platforms are all fictional in the NVMS’s election, created by Britten’s TAG students, however the concepts learned by the students are very real.

“The ideas were from all these sixth-graders in the class. This was all their doing. These ideas are things they were excited to have these characters represent for them for making the world a better place,” Britten said. “These kids’ creativity always amazes me. I’m proud of them for that, for coming up with such creative ideas.”

Social studies teachers in the school then held caucuses as part of their classroom activities. Teachers instructed students to imagine they are registered voters for that particular party.

“The way Iowa caucuses work is you come together as a neighborhood or a district called a precinct, you talk about these ideas and talk about which candidates would do best as far as representing these ideas and making these happen if they would be elected,” Britten said. “There were discussions in the caucuses in every class and each class voted on three delegates to represent them and vote for them, so it wasn’t a popular vote. Just like the Iowa caucus, there were delegates voting on their behalf.”

Britten said that while it’s not how a United States presidential election would go, the second place finisher in each party became the vice presidential candidate.

The TAG group will now campaign for the different parties, coming up with slogans, posters and both positive and negative campaign videos the promote their candidate. Students in the whole school will get to view those items and decide for themselves who to vote for based on what concepts they feel are viable based on the candidates and which ones aren’t.

On Election Day, social studies classes will then become like states, electing electors who will vote on their behalf like the electoral college does.

“Whoever wins the popular vote in each class, those three electors in those classes will actually cast the ballot like the electoral college does,” Britten said. “Middle school students have never heard of the electoral college. I talked to the seventh and eighth grade students and there were very few who had ever heard of the electoral college. It’s a great opportunity and I didn’t want to let this election year go by without having them learn something from it, understanding this is how our democratic process works.”