I heard their little voices rise above the slamming of metal locker doors.
“But you have to! You need to!” I heard them pleading to each other.
“If you don’t, your voice won’t be heard and you just won’t count,” said another.
“It’s not too late! Go do it now!” said another with urgency.
“But, I just don’t know who to vote for!” replied the receiver of the 7-year old advice panel.
I sat up in my chair, pushed my laptop to the side, and began to make my way to the door where the children were dishing out advice. What should I ask them? What can I ask them? Are they ready to talk about the election?
“Vote for Captain Underpants! Vote for Baby Mouse! Vote for Lunch Lady!” they rang out in chorus.
I stopped. Laughed. And I made my way back to my swivel chair, still warm from the 30 seconds I had left it.
One of the reasons why I love doing this work (i.e., justice, activism, engagement) with elementary students is the opportunity to be creative as we teach life lessons. During this tense election season where we, as grown ups, are struggling with how to articulate discourse and action, the professionals at The Park School have been using age-appropriate lessons and opportunities to teach about civic engagement. In the library, our teachers have put up three candidates — Captain Underpants, Lunch Lady and Baby Mouse — up for election. The students had to create campaign slogans, read their “platforms”, and cast their vote.
And, at this early age, to hear young people encourage others to vote, to identify the voting process, and to use critical thinking skills to determine which is the best candidate, are lessons worth teaching.
But, this education is intentional. It’s designed. It’s crafted.
Our children need guides about voting, why voting matters, and critical information about issues. They need opportunities to think about their own lives, their own needs, the lives of others, and the needs of others as they cast their vote. They are asked to think about community issues vs individual issues and vice versa.
And, on election day, while many in our adult community will be waiting with held breath about our U.S. elections, our children and students will be abuzz waiting to find out who their pick is at The Park School!
As caring adults, find ways to engage your children about the issues impacting our communities — including voting. Our Upper Division students are deep into the learning about civil rights, slavery, and equality. Our Middle Division students are steeped in early governments and immigration and Indigenous rights. Our Lower Division students are exploring difference and community and the study of society. But, at home, they have lots of questions. They want to know the issues; they want to think through tough topics; they want to learn from you.
And, we all know that, here at The Park School, our students teach us well!
Peace and Park,