Teaching Learners How to Question, Think, Act

From Julie Rogers Bascom, educator from Edina Public Schools, MN.

As many teachers will tell you, this has been a difficult election to be leading classroom discussions about political candidates, the election, and voting. Yes, these are tough conversations, but all the more important to engage young thinkers in respectful exchanges to understand multiple perspectives. One of the ways that Edina Public Schools is addressing these dialogues is through our Kids Voting Edina program.

Students experience lessons from the Kids Voting curriculum, available at Minnesota Civic Youth, which are aligned to MN State Social Studies Standards. One of our teachers led a lesson on voting — learners could choose to have a snack from a box of cookies or from a box of crackers. Most “voted” for a cookie and were surprised when what was in the box of cookies were crackers. “Hey, that’s not what we voted for,” said several of the students.

The teacher then led a discussion about how you need to look past the outside to see what’s in the inside. This applies not only to elections, but the playground, the new student in the class or someone who is experiencing homelessness.

Through service-learning, we develop responsible and engaged citizens.

On Election Day, kids can then go to the poll with their parents or caregivers and vote using a ballot created just for kids on the same candidate adults are voting for — it even has pictures.

Exercising our right to vote is a learned skill — many first-time voters aren’t familiar with HOW to vote, so they don’t. Kids Voting is teaching learners how to question, think and act.

And while voting in and of itself is not direct or indirect service, it is part of teaching our young people how to advocate. In order to change systems, they need to develop voice.

One of the voices I’m listening to is Bruce Acosta. As part of Edina High School’s 10th grade Passion Project, Bruce addressed the issue of “Engaging Young People in Politics” as a sophomore last year. The Passion Project is a year long experience in the school’s 10th Grade Language Arts course. Students identify a topic or issue they are passionate about, research, and write a 10-page paper. Within that topic area or interest, they are asked to take action. about how service-learning is one way to engage more youth in politics.

Through service-learning, we develop responsible and engaged citizens — helping our rising leaders to make future decisions with not just their heads, but also with their hearts.