Electing a President
By Rebecca Rupp
Who says you’re too young to vote? Make your voice known! Register online (it’s free) at the National Student Mock Election at http://www.nationalmockelection.org/ and cast your vote for president. Also available at the website are detailed downloadable lesson plans and election curricula for elementary, middle-school, and high-school students.
Electing a President
And try these resources for the upcoming election month:
By Doreen Cronin and Betsy Lewin, Duck for President (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2004) is a clever and hilarious take on the political process. Duck is unhappy with his assigned chores on the farm (take out the trash, mow the lawn, grind the coffee beans), so he decides to hold an election and run for farmer. He beats the incumbent Farmer Brown; then finds that running a farm is hard work, so – in best Peter Principle fashion – he decides to run for governor, then president. (His campaign motto: “Duck, making us proud again”). Executive office, however, also proves too taxing, and when Duck discovers that Farmer Brown is now advertising for a duck, he turns the Oval Office over to the vice president and returns to the farm. A hoot for ages 4 and up.
The cover of Ben Clanton’s Vote for Me! (Kids Can Press, 2012) has a glaring Donkey on the blue half of the page and a hostile Elephant on the red, which sets the stage for the rest of the action: the respective candidates flatter the electorate, call each other names, and offer shameless bribes (PEANUTS! CANDY!). The outcome: independent candidate Mouse swoops in and wins the day. It’s a fun (and sobering) take on political discourse for ages 4 and up.
Election Day (Simon Spotlight, 2004) in Margaret McNamara’s Robin Hill School Ready-to-Read series features a classroom election. Kid candidates make grand campaign promises – a candy machine, no homework, a six-month summer vacation – until Becky takes a turn, explaining sensibly that she can’t guarantee spectacular treats, but that she’ll do her best. Guess who wins? (After, that is, the everybody-cover-your-eyes secret vote.) For ages 4-6.
In Kelly S. DiPucchio’s Grace for President (Hyperion Books for Children, 2012), when teacher Mrs. Barrington rolls out a poster of presidential portraits, Grace Campbell is appalled: “WHERE ARE THE GIRLS?” Upset, Grace decides to run for president – and her teacher helps by organizing an election in which the kids in the class represent the different states with their varying complements of electoral college votes. For ages 5-8.
Catherine Stier’s If I Ran for President (Albert Whitman & Company, 2007) is a nicely done introduction in which six perky multiracial kids take turns explaining the ins and outs of the election process, from the initial decision to run, through campaigns, primaries, conventions, debates, voting, and the ultimate decision of the electoral college, ending with the inaugural address. For ages 5-9.
Karen Balcker’s Election Activity Book (Scholastic Teaching Resources, 2012) has dozens of projects, games, and activities on campaigns, elections, and presidents. For example, kids make an election timeline, conduct opinion polls, design political ads, and make a presidential fact wheel. For ages 6-8.
Running for President
See How They Run: Campaign Dreams, Election Schemes, and the Race to the White House by Susan E. Goodman (Bloomsbury USA, 2008) is a 96-page history of elections from the beginnings of democracy in ancient Greece to the modern-day electoral college, spattered with witty anecdotes, fact sidebars, quotations, photos, illustrations, and clear explanations. Readers learn all the basics, plus get the scoop on mudslinging, assassinations, and Andrew Jackson’s over-the-top inauguration party that wreaked havoc with the White House chairs. For ages 9-13.
See also Homeschooling Resources: Mars!
Richard J. Maybury’s Are You Liberal? Conservative? Or Confused? (Bluestocking Press, 2004), written as a series of helpful letters from the savvy Uncle Eric to his politically confused niece/nephew Chris, endeavors to define such essential terms as liberal, conservative, left, and right, and to put them in historical perspective. Maybury is opinionated and readers may not always agree with his views, but he’s a guaranteed discussion-starter. For ages 11 and up.
At Ben’s Guide to the U.S. Government for Kids at http://bensguide.gpo.gov/, Ben is a cartoon Benjamin Franklin who provides grade-specific general information on the process of electing the president, vice president, senators, and representatives. Explanations are provided at three different levels, for grades 3-5, 6-8, and 9-12.
All About Electing a President at http://www.pocanticohills.org/election/president.htm is a simply written illustrated guide to elections for early-elementary-level kids. Included are a map showing the number of electoral votes allotted to each state, puzzles and quizzes, an election glossary, a teacher’s guide, and more.
From the Library of Congress, “Elections…the American Way” at http://www.loc.gov/teachers/classroommaterials/presentationsandactivities/presentations/elections/home.html is an excellent historical overview of presidential elections, illustrated with period photographs. Topics covered include Candidates, Voters (“Who can vote? How has this changed over time?”), the Party System, the Election Process, and Campaign Issues. See the Candidates page (click on “Gallery”) for a project in which kids make their own slate of presidential candidates in the form of dried-apple dolls.
Eleanor May’s Mac & Cheese, Pleeze! (Kane Press, 2008) is an upbeat exercise in election math as Caitlin’s class holds a Lunch Election, with each kid campaigning for a chosen main dish. Among the contenders are Turkey Wieners, Tofu Surprise, and Caitlin’s own Mac & Cheese. As Caitlin plugs her favorite, she devises quick tricks for calculating the rapidly changing numbers of supportive voters. For ages 6-8.
Is Democracy Fair? by Leslie Johnson Nielsen and Michael de Villiers (Key Curriculum Press, 1997) is an activity-based 150+-page text on the mathematics of voting and apportionment – that is, problems created by different voting methods and election decision procedures, and problems of pertaining to apportioning equitable numbers of representatives to the U.S. House. A thought-provoking meld of math, history, and politics with many project suggestions for ages 12 and up.
Is Democracy Fair? is available for $3.99 as an e-book at http://www.lulu.com/us/en/shop/michael-de-villiers-and-leslie-johnson-nielsen/making-democracy-fair-the-mathematics-of-voting-and-apportionment/ebook/product-20405206.html.
The Mathematics of Voting at http://www.ctl.ua.edu/math103/voting/mathemat.htm covers fairness criteria, voting methods, and ranking procedures, all with explanations and exercises. For ages 12 and up.