First grade teacher Bev “Greenie” Greenberg has never viewed a student’s age as a barrier to learning. Rather, she considers early exposure to ideas and concepts the perfect way to establish primary understanding of the people, places and things around them every day. The presidential election cycle has provided Greenie with an ideal opportunity to immerse her students in learning more about our country, the concept of democracy and the importance of having a voice in the election process.
Through their study of literature and reading concepts throughout the year, students invariably liked some book characters more than others. Greenie then asked her students, “Which of these characters would you support for President of Children’s Literature?” Students then self-selected into small groups, or pods, based on the children’s book character they liked best and decided on Geronimo Stilton, Matilda and Piggy from the Piggy and Elephant Series.
Greenie then paired developmentally appropriate aspects of the current presidential election with the reality of the classroom experience. Beginning with the basics, she introduced students to the concept of an election and the meaning of democracy and how it differs from a monarchy. She spoke to the qualities of good leaders and introduced a number of election-specific vocabulary words, such as majority, candidate and nominee.
After selecting the nominees, students worked in Campaign Committee groups based on their pods, which also included the remote learners based on their affinity for a specific candidate.
Students brainstormed reasons that people should cast their ballots for
their specific character and created posters beaming with positive promotional messages on their selected character’s behalf. Click here
to see how each group described their candidate.
Greenie’s students then set out to invite community participation in their election, including 1st graders’ family members. In total, voters from JK through adults cast 328 votes, with the winner receiving 164 votes! We are proud to announce that the winner is Piggy! Greenie relayed Piggy’s enthusiasm: “Being a character of few words Piggy simply said, ‘Thank you!’”
This mock election experience and its associated unit of study provided a wonderful example of Parker’s teachers helping to shape students into “responsible citizens and leaders in a democratic society and global community.” The project educated 1st graders about the importance of gathering information about candidates, the election process and the idea that voting enables one to have a voice.