Feature

Teaching Democracy and Active Citizenship with Student Vote

Lindsay Mazzuco (Introduction)

also be inviting the local candidates into our school so students can meet them and ask questions, and bringing in local community members to talk about the importance of voting.

Hosting Local Candidates At Our School
Kim Stenhouse, Waterloo Region Teacher Local

Student Vote is one of the best ways I know to incorporate the elements of the Citizenship Education Framework of the Revised Social Studies/History/Geography Curriculum (2013) into my teaching. A real experience such as Student Vote helps these lessons “stick.”

I am looking forward to using the Student Vote resources and activities to make the election more real and accessible for my students. From learning about the political parties to how debates are structured and how to mark a ballot, it is all valuable and important! This year I also hope to host the local candidates at our school. The culmination of it all is the actual Student Vote Day, which demonstrates democracy in action. We try to make it as much like the “real thing” as possible. I know that these early experiences in civic engagement will help grow a generation that knows what it means to be responsible, active citizens, both their privilege and responsibility as Canadians.

Political Conversations Where You Least Expect Them
Shaun Kruger, Trillium Lakelands Teacher Local

Student Vote creates meaningful, and sometimes difficult, dialogue in the classroom, in the school and even at home. The best part is how kids become engaged in current issues and see the political conversations continue beyond the classroom, especially where it’s least expected, such as on the playground or in the school hallways.

In the past, I’ve had my students randomly draw which party they will research and role play. Each group choses a party leader to represent them who gives a speech or even participates in a debate for other classes in the school. The rest of their group supports them with research and talking with others to support their party and its platform. Come voting day it is always fun to see who comes out on top in the school and in the riding and who wins the election as a whole. It also creates great discussion afterward as to why each of those outcomes may have occurred.

Demystifies The Election
Heather Earle, Upper Canada Teacher Local

Student Vote demystifies the election and voting process. The resources and support provided authenticate the experience for student voters – pre- to post-election – and help them realize they are part of a larger collective of young people who are on the road to owning their democracy.

The new sports dome opening soon in our riding will be the starting point for our discussion this year as students explore how it took collaboration among all levels of government and local residents to make this facility a reality for the community. In addition to providing a relevant framework for the nuts and bolts of studying government, the resources will facilitate students’ understanding of how provincial politics play a role in our daily lives. We also plan to invite candidates to a forum to introduce themselves and answer students’ questions, and use the news literacy tools that CIVIX is developing.

Students Become Agents Of Hope
Stephen Skoutajan, Ottawa Carleton Teacher Local

Student Vote embeds political engagement into learning not just as an acknowledged right but also as an obligation and an invitation for young people to participate in our democracy. It allows them to see themselves reflected in the process as agents of hope and change. One of the leading causes of anxiety and depression in youth is their inability to see how they fit into the world around them. Student Vote invites my students into their democracy in a very real way.

We will be organizing neighbourhood walks where we can reach out to local businesses and organizations and learn about the issues that are at stake for them in the upcoming provincial election. This will set us up well for an all-candidate meeting where we can address the issues directly. My students don’t understand why so many Canadians fail to show up at the polls and I’m sure they will be floating ideas about how to increase voter engagement by reaching out to members of our neighbourhood and to young voters on college and university campuses. In the end, Student Vote brings together all our learning into one culminating event that celebrates the act of marking a ballot.

Conclusion

The Student Vote program involves four key steps:

  1. Register your school: The program is open to all schools, focused on grades 4 through 12. There is no cost to participate.
  2. Receive materials: Registered schools are supplied with print and online pedagogical materials, an election manual, electoral district maps, campaign posters, ballots and ballot boxes.
  3. Engage with the campaign: The activities are intended to inform students about government and the electoral process, encourage research into the candidates, parties and issues and foster dialogue among students and their families.
  4. Student Vote Day: Students take on the roles of deputy returning officers and poll clerks and coordinate an authentic vote for their peers. The results are announced by media after the close of the official polls.

More than 2,000 schools are expected to participate in the Student Vote program for the 2018 Ontario provincial election.

For more information visit: www.studentvote.ca.