Washington Middle School seventh-graders in Daiman Parinella's social studies classes recently received a "real-world" lesson on the political process to coincide with the 2012 presidential election. Students completed a unit on the election cycle where they learned about the different political parties. They also researched each presidential candidate's platform and looked at both sides of many issues that were important to voters in the election. Mr. Parinella showed portions of all three presidential debates, and students debated their individual opinions on the different issues important to the American public during the campaign.
Students also delved into the electoral process and how it works. Mr. Parinella explained the process and that even though the popular vote is important, the election is decided on the electoral vote count. He also discussed with students that since electoral votes are generally allocated on an "all or none" basis by state, the goal of the presidential candidate is to win both the popular vote and the 270 electoral votes to win the presidency.
Students visited www.270towin.com, an interactive 2012 Electoral College map with a history of past presidential elections in the United States, to study which states historically went to Democrats and which went to Republicans. Mr. Parinella displayed a United States map on the wall in the classroom to fill in the electoral map. Each student also predicted what they thought the final electoral vote in the 2012 presidential election would be based on past history and the research they conducted on the current candidates' platforms.
Washington Middle School seventh-grader Noah Larson shows off his electoral map for the 2012 presidential election. Larson correctly predicted how many electoral votes each candidate would receive.
Washington Middle School seventh-grader Noah Larson correctly predicted that President Obama would receive 332 electoral votes and Mitt Romney would receive 206.
"I just estimated my prediction based on what I saw happen in past presidential elections," said Noah. "I didn't know before I started this unit that if someone receives 270 electoral votes, they automatically win the presidential election. I think it's important to learn about the election process because when we get old enough to vote we need to understand how it works and how it affects the economy."
Students were also able to actually "vote" in a real voting machine on Student Council Election Day for both the student election and the presidential election. Students are also writing individual letters to President Obama with information about themselves, what they are doing in Mr. Parinella's social studies class and their opinion on a political issue that they learned about during the election cycle unit.
"I have found that if you relate a subject to a real-world scenario, it makes it much easier for the students to make a connection. We have a civics standard, and using the real presidential election (is) attention-getting and interesting for the students," said Mr. Parinella. "I can also relate it to other topics in the social studies curriculum. When I talk about Abraham Lincoln, for example, they already know about the political parties and how that works. It relates past history to today."