Do Something

Do Something.

It’s a mantra that’s been playing inside my head since the 2016 election.

Last July, I joined the League of Women Voters, a nearly 100-year-old organization dedicated to preserving our democracy. Inspired by a friend in Connecticut whose chapter teaches civics and conducts voter registration at local schools, I met with my chapter’s president and said that’s what I wanted to do.

Turns out, an education program isn’t standard and my chapter, which comprises three New Jersey towns, didn’t have one. Until now.

I wrote a script and Susan, the league president created a power point to present to 5th graders.

Why 10-11 year olds?

Why not? In only 7 or 8 years, these students will be voters.

They have opinions. They have voices. They have families, friends, and neighbors.

The presentation, “Why Voting Matters” included a mock election between candidates Zeus and Apollo; one promising free homework passes and the other more screen time. We discussed what does it mean to be informed, how do we become informed, and how do we know we can trust a candidate’s promise?

The second round of voting took the candidates into the community. Zeus wants a new skateboard park in an open space inhabited by a rare colony of ducks. Apollo is against it. Debate ensued. They learned about compromise and non-partisan (as the LWV is).

In the third round of voting, we showed what happens when people don’t vote. By removing a percentage of the class from voting, students witnessed the effects on the outcome. When asked how it felt to not vote, students expressed anger, acknowledging the unfairness.

Hopefully, the students went home and shared what they did in school. Hopefully, we made some impression about the importance of voting. Though we touched on apathy and inability to get to the polls as reasons why people don’t vote, we didn’t mention disenfranchisement. That’s for another lesson.

At the end, I gave each student an index card to write something they learned. Here are a couple responses:

“It is important to know the facts about a person before you vote for anyone.”

“I learned that it is important to vote because if you didn’t vote, you wouldn’t have a say in something.”

“One vote can change the world.”

“I learned that everyone has a duty to vote, and if some people don’t vote it affects the outcome.”

As witnessed by the high schoolers taking on the gun lobby and its abhorrent supporters, there’s power in youth. They are our future and I’m betting on them.

Do Something.

 

 

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About cyclingrandma

I was a journalist (Danbury News-Times, Ct), before becoming a teacher, and continue to write for professional journals. I have written several study guides for Penguin Books and write for Education Update, a newspaper based in New York City. (www.educationupdate.com). I’ve interviewed many authors, college presidents, and scientists. I wrote “The Kentucky Derby’s Forgotten Jockeys” for Smithsonian Magazine's website, www.smithsonian.com. (April, 2009). Two essays have been published in book anthologies; one for Wisdom of Our Mothers, (Familia Books) and the other in “College Search and Parent Rescue: Essay for Parents by Parents of College-Going Students.” (St. Martin’s Press). I was a middle school Language Arts teacher for more than 10 years and have just completed a five year grant position under No Child Left Behind in Newark, NJ public schools. I have three children, two daughters-in law, and six grandchildren. I'm an avid cyclist, knitter, cook, and reader. I love theater, museums, and yoga.
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9 Responses to Do Something

  1. This is so great

    Jacob Winkler, LCSW, CGP

    804-404-5679

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    Liked by 1 person

  2. Anne says:

    Great job!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. If I could have hit the “like” button a thousand times and again, I would have. Our vote is the most powerful, individual advocacy that we have. Thank you for doing this work with young people. They are our great hope and from what I’ve seen the past few days, they are rising up with their collective voice to create good and necessary change! God Bless you.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. What a great project! Yay for you Lisa! I would love to see civics and social skills/communications taught as part of every school curriculum, along with nutrition/cooking information and managing personal finances. I think that learning these basic skills/knowledge are too often left to chance when schools “teach to the test” and focus on churning out high academically performing students over those who know how to function in the world.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. jfrances40 says:

    Really wonderful! Love the mock election idea.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. What a joy to have an intelligent person thinking and expressing ideas of worth, instead of those of hate and revenge! Good for you, Lisa!

    Like

  7. Pat Skene says:

    This is an excellent project to do in the classroom. Should be part of the curriculum.

    Like

  8. Pingback: Birthday Giving | cyclingrandma

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