The 3rd graders are currently finishing up a robust unit on civics and government. Part of what we learned during this unit was who The Constitution states is qualified to run for president, and what unwritten qualities people look for in a president. Studying real campaign posters helped us determine that the people want a president who is trustworthy, energetic, focused, and kind. The students have also finished reading a novel about a character who is campaigning for office (Bad Kitty for President, The Kid Who Ran for President, or NEATE to the Rescue).
Another topic of study was the two main political parties, and the basic beliefs of each. Democratic posters taught us the symbol of the donkey, the party color of blue, and the main beliefs of social responsibility, equality, and a powerful government. Republican posters taught us the symbol of the elephant, the party color red, and the core beliefs of personal responsibility, limited government, and lower taxes. With their new understanding of candidates, campaigns, and parties, along with the background knowledge gained from the "pumpkin politics" activity you read about here, the students created their own campaign posters for a fictional candidate. The requirements for the poster were based on what we saw in real campaign posters throughout history: they must represent their party, include a slogan, and communicate something to us about what their candidate is all about.
Each student acted as the campaign manager for his/her candidate, giving a brief description of the candidate and the poster, and telling why their candidate is the best person for the job of president of the United States!
The campaign posters were then hung in 2 categories, Democrat and Republican.
Next, we held a primary election to choose our 2 presidential candidates. When the results came in, the campaign managers got the chance to make their argument as to why their candidate should be chosen.
It was now time for the general election. But FIRST, we had to learn about electoral colleges. The students cast their vote, and were then assigned a state to represent. This meant that their ballot would be worth the amount of electoral votes that their state gets. This added an element of suspense and surprise as I added up the votes.
As each ballot came in, I represented the votes in various ways, using addition, subtraction, or whole numbers. The students were then tasked with finding the total for each candidate.
Even with the random voting and assignment of states, the election came down to just TWENTY ELECTORAL VOTES! I'm sure you can imagine the excitement as the republican candidate was announced the winner. The democratic candidate gave a graceful concession speech, and our new president was equally as graceful, promising to make our country proud.
Little people, big minds.