Sunday, October 21, 2012

OH the FUN Elections can Occupy in Classrooms: Overview of Awesome Ideas and Websites

From: Art by Ben Clanton
This year's national and local elections are overflowing with rivalry, challenges, infused debates and accusations.  The Presidential and many local races are still too close to call and offer wonderful excitement as well as civic learning opportunities.

In the final two weeks before the 2012 elections here are some diverse ways to look, learn and bring the national and local issues to your kids. The resources below have games, national projects and challenges, and research tools. 


Engage in Democracy 2012 Student Journalism Challenge is a non-profit project supported by the Media Arts Institute whose goals are to engage K-12 students in democracy, leadership, and community involvement.  Through the challenge described below Engage 2012 goals are to:
  • encourage curiosity, 
  • develop students' technical and non-fiction storytelling skills in a hands-on learning environment, 
  • assist educators in building curriculum that teachers about journalism and the democratic process, and
  • empower students to make positive changes on a community and societal level
The Engage 2012 Challenge:
"To participate, shoot a video under two minutes in length using stories from around your community with a focus on one of six big election topics below. You or a team of three students can submit three entries by January 19, 2012. Research, shoot, write, edit.  Use your smartphone, camcorder or flip camera...we are looking for entries that are fair, accurate and informative. The six big election topic are:
    • voter turnout
    • jobs and the economy
    • education reform
    • health care
    • energy and the environment
    • immigration
For more details, for helpful resources and sample videos please go to:

MTV's Fantasy Election is an interactive game for kids.  Students log in and pick their political dream team for President and for Congress.  Points are accumulated based on how each candidate rates in the real world along numerous dimensions (such as honesty, transparency, public opinion, and engagement), for logging in to the debates. reading information online in published articles and even showing up at local political events. They are offering great prizes and if you're not sure what your dream team is, "Doris" their computer can generate one for you which can be tweaked any time up to the elections.

Join the Debate is a forum for high school students to chat about the debates.  After each debate, students are invited to log in and discuss the issues (the economy, renewable energy, education, foreign policy civil rights, and immigration, the candidates and their questions in a safe environment of peers from all over the world. High school students can log in and are assigned to a video chat discussion group led by one of their facilitators on Google hangout.

  • Conduct your own debates  
    • Mock Presidential debates
    • Mock Congressional debates of local candidates
    • From:
    • Debate the issues.  To give everyone a voice you may opt for small groups, and either have each group debate each issue or assign issues to the various groups - allow them to debate - and then reflect their opinions to the class as a whole.
  • Conduct  polls (neighborhood, class and/or school) for local or student and/or staff opinions on the candidates and on selected issues (gun control, immigration, economy, energy, health care, educations, or even voter turnout).
  • For visual literacy activities:  Look at the election cartoons and art.  Discuss use of slogans, colors, animals and content to relay information and attempt to sway opinions.  
  • When researching topics (please see suggested tools/sites below) some websites and newspaper articles are more objective than others.  Discuss the role and challenges of objective reporting.
  • Discuss how you can set up elections booths in the classroom for the school students.  Discuss need for ID's, polling, and how best to create a ballot and vote.

TOOLS THAT PRESENT ELECTION INFORMATION (note some are more objective than others and this on its own is an excellent discussion or project):

  •  this site allows you to sort information along candidates and issues and follow search trends and follow real time public opinion.
  • monitors the accuracy of what candidates actually say.  There is an awesome viral spiral page which lists false or misleading information gone viral that they are asked most frequently about.
  • 2012 election for kids cartoons you should screen them first but there are some wonderful cartoons here rife for discussion.
  • Chan Lowe from
  • TIME Magazine for Kids special election coverage - this site has links on the debates, behind the scenes at the conventions, meet the candidates (Presidential and VicePresidential), chat rooms, and meet the media to name a few. They also have a link where kids can cast their own votes.
  • Scholastic Magazine  also has a neat site that features "breaking news" meet the candidates, lesson plans for teachers and parents, election vocabulary, election timeline, and election maps and games.
  • - Government Made Easy  - has information about the elections and voting, the electoral college, election history, legislation and reform, and links for  educational material
  • is a wonderful resource.  Under "History and Government" they have a wealth of information on the election, the candidates, and the issues. Sections at this site include:
    • Mitt Romney on the Issues
    • Barak Obama on the Issues
    • Elections & Issues (with information on the closest Presidential races, the electoral college vs. popular vote, PACs, superdeligates, types of ballots)
    • Presidential Factfile with information on past and present Presidents, their families, their pardons, and milestones, to name a few
    • Presidential Fun Stuff - with quizzes, slideshows, films, crossword puzzles, games
    • Inaugural speeches and notable addresses
Thanks to Talia Hurwich for this blog idea as well as for recommending an awesome resource: Ideas from Infinite Thinking Machine

Regardless of who you vote for, make sure you vote and please share some of your favorite kid-friendly ideas ore websites.

Thanks for your visit and comments.



  1. How fun!

    Thanks for linking up with Super Sunday Sync! We hope you found some great bloggy friends!

  2. Just visiting as a fellow guest from Danielle's Sunday Blog Hop! A little late, but better that than never. Enjoyed this post, and wish everyone involved with your Election well. We're following it over the Atlantic as well! May the best candidate win - not telling which one I think that is!

    Will be following, to see what you get up to next, and meanwhile would like to invite you over to my blog at Think you would both enjoy the visit, and we'd all love to see you there! If you'd care to Follow us too, and comment, that would be terrific!

    All the best. Isobel

  3. CBS Sunday Morning did a nifty segment on the Electoral College this past weekend, explaining it to kids. It's quite good!
    I should link to your post next time I write about politics...

  4. I think if I had had teachers like you, with suggestions like yours, I would have enjoyed Government and the whole political process.

  5. Great suggestions. I think it is so important to get kids learning about the election process early, so when they do get to vote, they know how important it is.

  6. Princess Nagger's class has been doing campaign/voting type activities the last few weeks - it's so funny to listen to her talk like a politician. ;)

    Halloween Costume Plans, Warrior Cats vs. Angry Birds Birthday and more: RTT Rebel

  7. Great post Meryl. I think holding mock presidential debates in the classroom is a great idea. I actually wish that I had debating skills - but was never exposed to it in high school or college.

  8. Some fabulous prompts. So important for our children to be politically aware and engaged.

  9. Interesting but difficult stuff for a foreigner.We have about 20 parties and proportial representation. After the election half of the parties disappear, of the other half the 150 members of parliament will be chosen. The larger parties will form the government.
    For children it's enough to know some parties and what they stand for. The older children can discuss some issues which are very up to date, but I am afraid they echo their parents'views.
    Still I wished I had a teacher like you to learn about these subjects.

  10. I suspect your students will be better informed than many voters.

  11. Great ideas here. Some teachers do just this when there's a Canadian election. I've been watching the presidential debates and think it's going to be a very close race.

    abcw team

  12. Thanks for the great resources for kids. My 8 yr old is definitely curious about all the buzz.

    Happy WW!

  13. This blog looks like it has excellent resources for education. Will be back to browse for ideas for my 2 1/2 yo grandchild.

  14. Great ideas for engaging students in the election process. Carver, ABC Wednesday Team

  15. Those are great ideas, it would give the students a chance to voice out their opinions!

    O is for....
    Rose, ABC Wednesday Team

  16. As a teacher, we always did mock elections to see who all the classes chose to won! It was always interesting to hear the comments from the kids about what their parents have told them!

  17. Great ideas !!!

    If you have not done so yet, we would love to have you come share/link via our WWHop:
    Happy Wordless Wednesday!

  18. fantastic info, thanks! now I'm inspired to talk with my 3rd grader more about why mommy is so freaked out (in a positive manner)!

  19. That's a great idea. Visiting late for Ruby Tuesday.

    My entries:
    Moms... Check nyo

  20. This is a spectacular collection. I hope you'll consider adding it to "Look! What We Did!" This is a website dedicated to sharing and finding creative and informative homeschool posts. -Savannah

  21. Thanks for linking this on "Look! What We Did!" I featured you as one of the best resources during the month of October.