HARVARD — The mock election that second-grade teacher Chris Snell held in his classroom Monday morning, Nov. 3, was on a smaller scale than its school-wide counterpart across the street at Bromfield. But if the sixth- through twelvth-graders seemed close to the real deal, the younger students’ grasp of the subject was pretty acute, too.
A mural on the wall outside Snell’s classroom is a colorful collage of political history, current events and individual ideas. Images of past candidates who became president, including Kennedy, Truman and Reagan, mingle with the students’ versions of today’s campaign promises, such as “I will give people money,” and “I will stop the war.”
The voting set-up was simple. One student, one cube. Each student plucked a plastic cube from a full box and placed it in the labeled ballot box of choice: Senator Obama or Senator McCain or write-in. Later, the cubes would be counted, each one representing a vote.
To prepare for this activity, the class has been discussing the political process, Snell said. And students were encouraged to talk about their political positions. Alice Pope and Sage McFarland, for example, supported Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama and his vice-presidential running mate, Joseph Biden, while Alicia Bakis and Connor O’Shea supported John McCain and Sarah Palin.
Sage offered this take on Obama: He wants to save the environment and stop war.
This is how Alice interpreted Obama’s “share the wealth” viewpoint: If you make more money, you should give it to others who have less money.
Alicia said of McCain, “He’s old and Obama’s young.” But to her, that works in her candidate’s favor. Because McCain has more experience and a longer memory of those who came before. “It’s like voting for all the presidents in one,” she said.
Connor said this scenario illustrates the difference between the two candidates: Obama wants to give fish to the poor. But McCain would teach the poor to fish.
“That’s like getting them jobs,” he said.
Meanwhile, at The Bromfield School, ninth-grade history teacher Kathleen Doherty and her helpers had set up a polling place, with voting booths in the student lounge known as “the fish bowl” and a table to check in voters in the hall outside its door.
Along the hallways, colorful and imaginative posters literally shouted the presidential candidates’ names and platforms, while others touted causes from state ballot questions.
Doherty has been conducting mock elections at Bromfield since at least 2000. Noting study segments leading up to the big day, she and other history and social studies teachers and their students discuss political issues and the voting process in class, she said.
Here is a summary of preliminary results.
For president, Obama won with 349 votes versus 109 for McCain.
Kerry won for Senate, with 348 votes versus 79 for Beatty.
On the questions: A majority of students voted NO on one, YES on two, three and four and NO on five.
Total votes cast: 489
Total student population: 757; registered 519.