the power of participation

The Power of Participation: Creating the Citizens of the Future

How and Why Academy at the Lakes is Covering the Presidential Election

From 3-year-olds in preschool to students of voting age, our instructors have been using this year’s presidential election as an educational experience for their students.

In creative, thought-provoking, and non-partisan ways, they are helping to set the foundation of an informed group of citizens that will one day be responsible for the future of our country.

Citizenship is one of the 6C’s of Academy’s core curriculum, and this election year has given AATL’s instructors a golden opportunity to dive deep into what it means to be a citizen of the United States.

In the Upper Division, American Government and American Politics classes have collectively determined what characteristics their ideal presidential candidate would have, even down to physical attributes. See the info graphic below for a complete description of the students’ ideal president:

Presidential Candidate Infographic

Coverage of the election and the message of the importance of participation doesn’t end in the classroom. Head of School Mark Heller has held several civics assemblies throughout the year. These cover not only the ins and outs of the presidential election but also the way our system is structured. Academy also hosts annual signing ceremonies at which students who are old enough to vote register during the assembly.

This election year has been harsh at times, but the learning experience it has provided our students to has been valuable thanks to the efforts of educators and a school that believes in the power of knowledge and being a well-informed citizen.


Want to dig a bit deeper?

Here are some specific topics relating to the presidential election covered in each division of the school.


Lower Division – PreK3 – 4th Grade

In Lower Division, students are learning about the election in age-appropriate ways through social studies. The entire Lower Division took part in voting for our Giraffe Club 4th grade representatives. Lower Division educators acknowledge and teach the students about the election and importance of voting.


Middle Division – 5th & 6th Grade

The 5th and 6th Grade Student Council elections served as an opportunity to for students to engage in democratic processes on a small scale as citizens of our school community.

Mrs. Elizabeth Magnusson, the 5th and 6th Grade Student Council advisor, expressed that candidates should first and foremost understand that the purpose of Student Council is to serve others — in our school, community, and beyond.

Students campaigned by soliciting the support of their teachers and peers by collecting signatures and creating posters. Candidates delivered a focused speech detailing their qualifications, and their goals for their position in office which centered around their ideas for fundraising for charities.

Finally, students were introduced to the idea of the “secret ballot” as they engaged in voting for the candidates.


Middle Division – 7th & 8th Grade

In 7th and 8th Grades, students started the year discussing the electoral process. They learned the history and process of the electoral college and identified commonly used political terms during an election cycle such as: swing state, incumbent, primary, etc.

After the basics, students looked at the specifics of the current 2016 campaign. They chose four political issues that they found to be important —the environment, jobs, equal rights, national security—and researched the four top candidates positions on those issues using a combination of their websites and other online tools.

Students continue to have regular updates throughout the semester as important events are reported.


Upper Division – 9th & 12th Grade

The American Politics elective class is designed to introduce students to the process of modern presidential elections in the United States, to help them develop into voters who think critically.

Students concentrate on the process of elections and governance, examine campaign finance, media manipulation, candidate qualities, and modern data driven campaigning.

This class is not designed to push any particular person or party’s agenda, but rather to study how those parties and special interest groups shape elections. Students learn how the different parties work to get their candidates elected.

“This election is something completely new, much as the Bubonic Plague was to Europe in the 1300s,” said Mr. Jay Gibson, American Government Instructor. “It shows the lack of civility, coarseness, and general viciousness latent in American society. We are covering this with the intent to figure out how to address these problems, and the anger of the American voter. Our motto is ‘No election is worth getting angry over.’”

“I do not care who any student supports. I encourage the students to review the issues and the candidate’s views, and then choose who they would support. I just ask them to be able to cite the issue and the position. I am very proud of these students, as they demonstrate civility and open-mindedness every day.”

In American Government class this semester, students have been closely following the presidential election as well as the state and local elections.

Each week students are required to complete politically related current events assignments. The students must read the news article, summarize and analyze it, then state their opinions.

During the first week of school American Government students took an online quiz in which students answered questions about important policy issues. The results help identify which presidential candidate they most agree with.

Finally, American Government students will participate in a mock election on Nov. 8 to compare the results to the national results on Nov. 9., culminating in an “End of the Election Party.”


Civics Assemblies

Students in Middle and Upper Divisions attend civics assemblies, presented by Mr. Heller, which further educate students about the process, system, policy content of the candidates, and, most importantly, how important they are to the system.

“Over the next few years Academy at the Lakes will be focusing on civics education,” said Mr. Heller. “It is in our strategic plan. This is what our children need, this is what our country needs, in order for us to be our best.”

“All of us choose to be here, working with children, because we want to make the future better. And the best way, the most important way, is to make sure that students graduate from this school as engaged citizens. Not as Democrats, not as Republicans, but as engaged citizens who can assess and act upon information and, ultimately, help our country and our world to be a better place.”


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