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Diving into Democracy

If you cut through the noise and the spin, there's a lot to learn about the candidates, ideas and forces that will determine who wins the most watched presidential election in modern American history.

And Foote students and teachers are diving in with gusto!

Here are six ways that Foote classes are engaging with the 2020 race for the White House.

7th Grade Humanities

Teachers Sheila Lavey and Skye Lee have engaged their students in lessons on civil discourse and how to argue effectively. With a view toward media literacy, they have also examined the differences between news, opinion and fake news. To support these conversations, they are using the New York Times/Scholastic magazine Upfront, as well as their videos. Also, students are using the iCivics curriculum to delve deeper into all things election.

"The students are also examining which issues are important to them, many for the first time, and researching which candidate represents their interests," says Skye.

In addition, students are asking their parents about their voting plan (whether in-person, mail or absentee) and finding examples of fake news and click bait on social media to explore how it spreads, why it can be dangerous and how they can help to stop the cycle.

"It’s a cool age because many are saying this is the first time they care about a presidential election," adds Skye.


8th Grade Humanities

In the Grade 8 humanities course, whose theme is "A Place at the Table," students have been studying the history of the struggle for voting rights, especially the direct actions that led up to the Civil Rights Act of 1965. They are reading the beautifully illustrated graphic memoir trilogy March by the late civil rights leader and Congressman John Lewis, and examining issues related to voting access that citizens are facing in the current election.

"We read John Lewis' posthumously published New York Times letter and worked to create our own small acts of 'good trouble' by identifying causes we care about and creating political signs for our outdoor tent," says teacher Deb Riding.

On Election Day itself, eighth graders will have a special virtual "Twichell Talk" with guests Michael Sloan and Jake Halpern (both parents of eighth graders), who will discuss the creation of their Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic series about a refugee family from Syria called "Welcome to the New World."

After that, eighth graders will turn their attention to the struggle for women's suffrage and the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment that granted women the right to vote.


Lower School Reading

Foote's librarians have been busy lending out books to students about the electoral process, voting rights and the power to make a difference. Here are some popular titles from the Perrine Library:

  • I Voted: Making a Choice Makes a Difference by Mark Shulman, illustrated by Serge Bloch
  • Lifting as We Climb: Black Women's Battle for the Ballot Box by Evette Dionn
  • Equality's Call: The Story of Voting Rights in America by Deborah Diesen, illustrated by Magdalena Mora
  • Finish the Fight by Veronica Chambers & the staff of The New York Times
  • Kamala Harris: Rooted in Justice by Nikki Grimes, illustrated by Laura Freeman
  • Act by Kayla Miller
  • Sofia Valdez, Future Prez by Andrea Beaty, illustrated by David Roberts
  • Lambslide by Ann Patchett, illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser


3rd Grade Mock Election

What better way to understand elections than to hold one—with real playground balls and badminton sets as the prize? Third graders will be holding a mock election to vote on new playground equipment on Election Day, November 3, as the final step in a multi-stage process to learn about democracy. The students have "registered" to vote by filling out online applications, they received voter ID cards, and they have participated in a primary election to narrow down the options for new playground equipment to two finalists: jumbo playground balls and badminton sets.

On Friday, they will be creating campaign posters to share on Monday (election eve.) Tuesday is voting day for third grade as well. There will be paper ballots (and absentee ballots for our off-campus learners). Voting will take place in the third-grade tent. Alongside all of this, third graders have been reading and learning about key terms. Post-election conversations will focus on feelings around whether or not your vote was the majority, and students will also learn more about the history of voting.


8th Grade Music

In 8th grade music, students are creating ads for the upcoming election. Teacher Deadra Hart explains the process: "First, they analyze ads from the 1968 presidential election, focusing on the use of images and sound. When it is time for 8th graders to become ad executives, they must use music, sound effects and voice-over to persuade, communicate and connect with their audience." 

Watch for 8th graders' finished ads later this fall!

5th Grade Social Studies

Cathy Pamelard, Director of the Learning Support Program, has been working with a few fifth grade classes around the elections. They studied the electoral process and timeline, including the electoral college, and students researched current issues and the candidates' stances on them.

"The history of the electoral college was especially interesting," Cathy says. The fifth graders used the PBS Electoral Decoder website to examine electoral voting trends all the way back to George Washington's first election!

For candidates' issues, the students researched climate change, the pandemic response, education, health care, racial justice and women's rights.

"A few of the children wrote and performed a news report describing the candidates' stances on the issue they researched," says Cathy, "without revealing if they themselves preferred a certain candidate's platform." 


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