Ask most Americans who won the most recent presidential election and they will say Barack Obama. But, ask a student at Lincoln Elementary School in Caldwell and you may get a totally different answer.
Lincoln students went to the polls on Tuesday, Nov. 13 and elected John Adams for president over candidate Ronald Reagan.
The activity was the culmination of Election 2012—A Link to the Past, a program designed by media specialist Doreen Golembeski that used former presidents as presidential candidates.
“All too often during a presidential election, simulated elections become opportunities for youngsters to simply echo their parents' voting patterns without making real choices on their own,” said Golembeski. “This program gave the students a chance to reflect upon leadership characteristics while learning about former presidents and the election process, and make their own decision.”
To determine which two of the past presidents would run for office in 2012, the fifth grade students evaluated and analyzed the lives of past presidents by reading biographies from the ABDO Publishers Checkerboard series U.S. Presidents.
A list of presidents, their qualifications for office, and contributions to our country were compiled and evaluated. The fifth graders then held a primary election to narrow down the field of candidates to two.
To keep the entire school involved, the campaign period included a variety of grade-specific, election-related art activities. Kindergarteners created wind socks, first graders created a collage map of the country and oragami hats, second graders made watercolor resist electoral college maps, third graders created clay sculptures of Mount Rushmore, fourth graders made election bumper stickers, using words and letters from The Star-Ledger newspaper, and fifth graders crafted silhouettes of the U.S. presidents using splatter-painting.
To create an authentic election experience, students colored campaign posters that were displayed throughout the school. After leaving the voting booth, each young voter received a patriotic bookmark and sticker that proudly displayed, “I voted today!”
After much preparation, eager anticipation and high voter turnout, John Adams was elected president, earning 56% of the votes.
“It was interesting to see these two very famous, very different presidents in an election together,” said Golembeski. “We taught the students to look at all aspects of a president and to think about what is important to them. I hope that this will result in a lifelong respect for the privilege of voting and an ongoing interest in our country's election process.”
The project was funded by the Caldwell-West Caldwell Education Foundation's Teacher Grant Program.