Buffalo Grove, Lincolnshire students find their political voice
Eighth-graders at Holmes Middle School in District 21 are filming and editing informational videos about political candidates. The school's younger students will cast votes in a mock election based on the video. | Joe Cyganowski~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 2, 2012 6:04AM
BUFFALO GROVE — Students around Buffalo Grove, Lincolnshire and Long Grove have been learning about the uniquely American process of choosing the nation’s chief executive in many of the time-honored ways.
But some of them are have taken the lesson plan even further, by building campaign web sites and participating in national, student-only elections as well.
At Daniel Wright Junior High in Lincolnshire, the “road to the White House” game that fifth-graders have been playing does not include the modern-day potholes of attack ads and superPACs, but it does detail the rigors of the campaigning process, said Julie Bodeen, assistant principal.
During the week of the Nov. 6 election, eighth-graders at Daniel Wright will use iPads to cast votes into a national database, making their voices heard.
But the voting experience that may come closest to the real thing could happen at Aptakisic Junior High in Buffalo Grove, where students will file into real voting booths and cast ballots that look much like the genuine articles.
“I have picked up voting booths from the Lake County Department of Elections, and have copies of official-looking ballots for the students to fill in,” explained Bebe Nudelman, who teaches eighth-grade social studies at Aptakisic.
At Cooper Middle School, instructor April Coffee reported that her students are examining one of the oldest portions of the American system of government: the checks-and-balances of the judicial, executive and legislative branches. And at Jack London Middle School, instructor Helene May noted that the kids will be participating in campaign speeches.
“A few weeks ago, the eighth-graders polled the sixth- and seventh-graders to see who they thought they would be voting for,” May said. “These initial poll results will be shared with the eighth-graders, and then they will be challenged to move the numbers by presenting their candidates’ perspectives to the sixth- and seventh-graders.”
To write their campaign speeches, May said the eighth-graders have been doing some old-fashioned research about topics that include immigration laws, foreign policy, the economy, health care and education, then mixing in analysis of modern political tools like the candidates’ web sites and videos. The speakers will deliver their final drafts Nov. 2.
Martin Hopkins, principal of District 21’s Holmes Middle School, said his eighth-graders have been assigned to watch the dueling campaigns’ videos and examining their messages, then create their own informational videos, with the goal of influencing the younger students’ votes with them.
“One thing that is different, though, is that some of the eighth-graders have created informational videos about the candidates and issues,” Hopkins said. “We are asking that before the students vote, they watch the informational videos.”
Stevenson High School has pushed students to get involved at the grass roots level.
Andrew Conneen, government teacher at Stevenson, noted that he had groups of students working in the campaign offices of both candidates for Congress’ 10th District, Democrat Brad Schneider and incumbent Republican Robert Dold. He even took a crew of nine students to watch their debate live in a newsroom.