Archive for Thursday, October 4, 2007

Democratic process takes on role in district curriculum

October 4, 2007

While most of them are not old enough to participate in an official election yet, Basehor-Linwood district students have been learning their vote will be their voice one day.

In an effort to include district students in the upcoming bond issue election, all of the district's schools have been focusing their curriculum in social studies, government and English classes on the democratic process, good citizenship and the importance of voting. The curriculum also is tying in issues surrounding the bond issue.

"We actually worked within the curriculum in the English department, reading novels regarding leadership and citizenship," said Sherry Reeves, principal at Basehor-Linwood High School. "They've been taught the responsibilities of good citizenship, which include voting."

Government teacher Noah Simpson also visited classes and gave 18-year-old students the opportunity to register to vote.

"He shared specific data on past elections showing that one vote can make a difference, and I think that really caught their attention," Reeves said. "The response from the kids was very favorable as far as how it was put toward the curriculum."

Basehor-Linwood Middle School, Glenwood Ridge Elementary and Linwood Elementary took it a step further by allowing the students to participate in a computerized mock bond election.

Last week, a computer was set up for LES students to cast a no or a yes vote for the bond issue. Principal Cindy Hiebert said lessons in the classrooms gave the students facts on the bond issue.

"The teachers gave short mini lessons on the bond issue," she said. "They talked about the privilege of voting, the definition of majority and also taught the issues surrounding the bond issue."

BLMS and GRES students took the time to vote in their mock elections during their regular computer classes. GRES principal Jan Hancock said the focus of their lessons was "a choice and a voice."

"The focus was on the democratic process," she said. "There was no push one way or another. We used it as a learning tool, but the focus was that they have a voice and a choice."

Since district patrons will be voting on the bond issue this month through a mail-in ballot, Teri Holmes, principal at Basehor Elementary School, decided to conduct BES's mock election as realistically as possible. A book called "Vote" was read in the classrooms, and fifth- and sixth-graders talked to the younger students about the Constitution, emphasizing the process and importance of voting. Students then registered to vote in their school election with mock voter registration forms.

Tuesday was voting day at BES, and Holmes donned a mail carrier shirt to deliver the mock mail-in ballots to each classroom. Students raised their hands to answer a few questions about the bond issue before they voted, such as the different changes that will occur in the district if the bond is passed, to recap what they had learned the past few days. Then, instructions were given on how to properly mark the ballot, seal it and sign the outside.

Holmes came back to the classrooms later with a play mailbox, so students could drop their ballots in and cast their vote.

The bond issue passed in all of the schools' mock elections by a large majority. Hancock said she expected that sort of an outcome because children naturally desire new amenities for their schools, but it is also difficult for them to fathom $39.9 million -- the price tag attached to the bond issue.

"If you put it out there and ask, 'would you like a better school?' they are going to say yes," Hancock said. "But, parents have other things to weigh into that decision."

While the mock elections served as a fun way for students to learn, several teachers said they hoped the lessons the students learned would stick with them throughout their lives. And, perhaps these lessons may also reach parents as they are presented with the opportunity to vote this month.

"We have a whole generation of people that are missing the opportunity for their voice to be heard," Holmes said. "I'm trying to teach a new generation that it is important to vote."

Mail-in ballots for the district bond election are expected to arrive in mailboxes beginning Friday and are due back to the county by noon Oct. 25.

For more information about the bond issue, visit the district's Web site, usd458.org/bond07/index.htm, or call the central office at (913) 724-1396.

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