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Elm Place Students Gear Up for Mock Election

A few Highland Park middle school social studies teachers are bringing the upcoming Presidential election to life for students, who will get their first crack at voting much earlier than most.

On Nov. 6, millions of Americans will cast votes to determine who will be President come 2013.

On Nov. 2, the student body at Elm Place Middle School will do the same thing.

For Elm Place social studies teacher John Whitehead, the upcoming Presidential election presents an invaluable opportunity to "bring history to life" with a mock election that the students are all invited to participate in.

"This is a curriculum that every student should use," Whitehead said. "It's being a good citizen."

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Since mid-October, Whitehead has been introducing Elm Place students to the country's election process with the help of social studies teachers Chris Hull and Pete Helfers. The lesson plan includes teaching students about the party system, the qualifications needed to run for President, the primary and caucus process and the conventions. For homework, students have been analyzing the debates, reading editorials about the candidates… and registering to vote.

"They have to register before school, after school or during lunch," Whitehead said. 

Students provide two forms of identification, including a copy of their class schedule, a note from their advisor or parents or a bus pass.

Whitehead is keeping track of how many students register. They can't vote unless they bring their registration card to school on voting day. Whitehead plans to use the tallies of who registers and who votes to teach students about voter apathy.

"How many kids in Elm Place are really going to register?" he asked. "We will show that during the Nov. 5th assembly."

The hardest lesson to teach, one Whitehead insists even most adults don't totally understand, is the electoral college. To demonstrate the difference between the popular vote and the electoral vote, homerooms will be broken up into states so that the candidate that gets the most votes in each class carries that state's electoral college votes.

"We do our best to simplify it and break it down, and lets our kids experience it," Whitehead said.

On Nov. 5, the entire school will attend an assembly where the results will be projected for everyone to see. There will be a map that shows the breakdown of which state went for which candidate, and charts that show voter turnout.

"The whole school will have a review lesson of what we learned," Whitehead said.

Whitehead will also be dressed as Uncle Sam, an additional flourish the teacher, who has been known to dress as King George and a flapper, is especially looking forward to.

"I'm the teacher who dresses up," he said.

Excited about the opportunity to bring this lesson to life, Whitehead is especially pleased to see how the knowledge students have gained since they began researching the candidates has led to increased participation in class.

"The more they learn, the more they get into it, the more they're not afraid to voice their opinion on it," Whitehead said. "The only way to get it is to get into the game."

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forest barbieri October 26, 2012 at 01:45 PM
Super! I know it has ignited interest from my Elm Place student. Apparently, in the first conversation as to whom the children were going to vote for, Romney won hands down because of a popular YouTube video. After the kids went home and discussed with their parents their views were "reset" and now the majority is for Obama:)

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