Election 2016

GrowingVoters.org Offers Free Curricula on Voting and U.S. Electoral System

A website geared toward educating elementary, middle, high school and college students about voting and the United States electoral system aims to transform young people into tomorrow’s voters by using technology and fun lessons and exercises.

GrowingVoters.org is a project designed by Jo-Anne Hart, an international relations and ed tech professor at Lesley University in Cambridge, MA. She’s also an adjunct professor of international and public affairs at the Watson Institute at Brown University.

The site contains nonpartisan classroom activities, lesson plans and resources designed to foster students’ interest and background in U.S. political and electoral processes — years before they actually get to the voting booth.

“It’s a long-term strategy to defeat low voter turnout,” Hart said in an interview. “Social science research indicates that voter apathy is prevalent (in the United States). Students may well remain apathetic, and you never get them back. We should start with elementary ages — start early and then have students do this kind of work throughout their schooling. Once they’re habituated (about the political process) throughout their schooling, they find a voice and form a habit. And the next possible step is they vote.”

For elementary students, GrowingVoters.org offers an activity called “Kid Reporters in Action,” in which first through third graders can interview adults about the most important election issues in their communities.

The elementary school section also includes election-related e-trading cards, a “lemonade stand” for civics in the community and an exercise on White House correspondents role playing.

For middle school students, the site offers guidelines on conducting a public opinion survey, using Facebook to post fliers and campaign ads, and learning how to listen to differing opinions with respect.

For high schoolers, GrowingVoters.org provides lessons on designing a campaign marketing strategy, conducting election surveys and opinion polls and using Twitter to post election-related photos, results, opinions and reactions.

The high school section also contains an exercise called “HACK the Spin,” which simulates a debate and press room and provides instructions on how to analyze political spin and media coverage.

“One of my really key motivations in creating this project is — the election is so big, so ambient, it shouldn’t be relegated to just social studies class,” Hart said. “You can discuss it in science class, where you can have students researching political parties on key science issues such as global warming. You can have projects in art class, English class, speech and debate. We can also use these activities to teach media literacy.”

Each section contains links to online tools such as Facebook, Twitter, Vine and Survey Monkey. Students can also use mobile apps to conduct polls and simulated advertising campaigns.

The site and lessons are free. For more information, visit GrowingVoters.org.

About the Author

Richard Chang is associate editor of THE Journal. He can be reached at rchang@1105media.com.

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