Election season provided a real-world framework for eighth graders at St. Hilda's & St. Hugh's to study American history, current events, and civics. In a local, charitable twist on the idea of a mock election, students in Cambridge Lynch’s social studies classes invited their fellow upper division students to vote on the following question: “Should we give $1000 to the Riverside Park Conservancy, or to the “Four Star Soup Kitchen” at Broadway Presbyterian Church?”
The project educated students about the electoral process and fostered essential skills, such as civil discourse and debate; critical thinking about important issues and values; and media literacy—how to examine and discern the messages that they receive from so many different channels.
“We are a democracy, and this year we are reminded that in our work as educators, modeling what it means to be citizens is continual,” said Ms. Lynch, who coordinated the mock election with Duane Bailey-Castro, Sixth Grade Social Studies Teacher and Upper Division Leadership Initiatives Coordinator. “We aimed to encourage students to think bigger and think outside of the world they know in trying to understand why someone would think differently than them.”
The students did extensive research about the two organizations, ultimately creating a presentation and filming a video that they shared with the rest of the upper division. Their report highlighted the merits of each organization and also conveyed the importance of voting itself. Students were encouraged to think about the people their votes would impact, and the near-term or long-term benefit of their choice. They also examined the right and the privilege that voting is, and how access to the vote is not always universal.
“Our students understand that the right to vote is sacred to those in a democracy,” said Mr. Bailey-Castro. “This right was earned through great sacrifice and struggle, and good citizens must participate in local spaces and hope to advance the public good.”
Voting took place on Oct. 27, and the majority of students voted to support the soup kitchen.
Their next step is to “earn” the donation funds. The P.E. Department will stage a jump-a-thon between Nov. 2-13, using school-provided jump ropes. Homerooms will work towards targeted goals set by the P.E. staff, and once everyone has achieved their goals, the school will release the promised funds. Members of the Student Council team will track the students’ progress on bulletin boards and online.