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5-K students get to vote on their favorite pets

Keith Randolph shows off his ballot.















It’s not every day that five and six year old 5-K children get an opportunity to go through an actual voting process, but that’s what happened at Black Street Early Childhood Education Center last week.

The children got a chance to actually go into a booth and vote, thanks to the imagination and ingenuity of School Volunteer Wayne “Pops” Garrett. “It’ll be the year 2025 by the time they can vote in a presidential election, but 187 students at the school actually voted recently in their school,” Pops said.

The children began learning about the voting process in early October. But, at the end of the month, the students were not voting for the next president, but on what animal would make the best pet. “With the upcoming presidential election, the teachers here thought it would be a good time to teach the students about having good ideas and making good choices, which are important attributes of being good citizens,” Pops said. He added that the voting process gave students the opportunity to make their voices heard and to share their opinions with others.

Pops pointed out that children’s perceptions can be easily influenced by adults, such as their parents, and also through the media. “They may likely vote for the same candidates as their parents and not really think for themselves,”

Throughout October, the students voted at school and at home, showing either pleasure of displeasure with food, games, clothing, toys, and other items. “The students can be taught a seemingly abstract process, such as voting, by using age-appropriate vocabulary, examples, activities, and printed materials,” Pops said.

Pops and the other administrators at the school discussed the voting issue and decided the students learn the best by engaging in meaningful, structured, hands-on activities with subject matter that they can relate to, and decided that the choice concerning a favorite pet would be a good issue to vote on.

In early October, the students first learned the meaning of the voting process. Examples of instances where they had already made decision, both at home and at school, were pointed out to them. Next, voter registration forms were passed out to the students, and they got to actually fill out a simplified version of the form.

Next, the students learned the meaning of an election primary and why it is necessary. A mock primary was also conducted so that they could choose a total of four pets from a group of eight, which included a hermit crab, fish, turtle, parakeet, gerbil, rabbit, cat, and dog. The children’s primary vote narrowed the field down to a fish, rabbit, cat, and dog.

“As time permitted, students helped to construct a voting booth from recycled materials, and then they voted by marking a paper ballot inside the voting booth. They also got to digitally vote on a computer,” Pops said.

After all the votes were counted, printouts of picto, pie, and bar graphs were printed out and given to teachers and administrators, and generalizations were made concerning the results.  It was deciding that the mock election provided a good opportunity to help with enforcing basic subject ideas. In the area of language arts, the students learned new sight words to use in the journals they used for the project. In the math area, the students learned to use tally marks, and how to read various forms of graphs.

Another school volunteer, Jody Judy, remarked that it was fun to see how excited the children were about getting to mark their ballots within a voting booth, adding that the children seemed proud to be wearing the “I voted” stickers they received. Some of the students came out of the booth and said, “I got to vote just like my dad (mom).”

Many of the students wanted to take their ballots home, and four girls from Heather Massey’s classroom used the letter placards to perform a cheer as they spelled the word, “vote.