Learning by doing: AZ students debate and run mail-in elections - AZEdNews
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Learning by doing: AZ students debate and run mail-in elections


Kyrene De La Colina Students Prepare Mail-in Ballots For Their School-wide Mail-in Elections For President And Arizona Senator. Photo Courtesy Kyrene School District

Some Arizona teachers and their students have taken learning about elections to new levels this Fall with live debates and their own mail-in elections.

At Florence High School, seniors in teacher David Silvas’ government class have learned about the different types of debates and how to debate respectfully, said Principal Toby Haugen.

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Students in David Silvas’ Government class at Florence High School work together on a debate activity in class. Photo courtesy Florence Unified School District

After watching clips of recent and earlier debates and learning about different participants in them, the students have held their own debates, Silvas said.

“The students have been getting into it a lot,” Silvas said. “They have had some great topics that they have debated in class.  We are setting up my classroom to make it look like a stage for a debate.”

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A closer look at a debate activity in David Silvas government class at Florence High School. Photo courtesy of Florence Unified School District

In addition, Silvas and the high school seniors in his government classes have discussed current social justice issues, including the protests, and highlighted the many different organizations and viewpoints involved.

“It is extremely important, because many of the people involved in all of the social justice issues are people their own age,” Silvas said.  “I have two Government classes and most students are 17 or 18 years old.  They will be on their own in less than a year, so they are going to have to learn how it is in the real world.” 

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Florence High School Government Teacher David Silvas working with students online and in-class on elections learning activities. Photo courtesy Florence High School

In addition, Florence High School will conduct a mock election on Friday, Oct. 30 in the cafeteria, Haugen said. 

“We will ‘build’ a polling place where students can come in and physically vote on the President of the United States and other issues that will be on the made-up ballot,” Silvas said.

“We will also offer a mail-in ballot so to speak where students who do not want to vote in person will receive an emailed ballot and can then vote that way if they choose to,” Silvas said.  

Students at Kyrene de la Colina Elementary School are taking what they have learned about elections one step further by running a school-wide mail-in election, said Kevin McDonald, who teaches fourth grade there.

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Kyrene de la Colina students prepare mail-in ballots for their school-wide mail-in elections for President and Arizona Senator. Photo courtesy Kyrene School District

Before the election, the students at Kyrene de la Colina are viewing PowerPoints, exploring websites, online games, and reviewing various information from different outlets on candidates for president and Arizona senator, McDonald said. 

“At Colina, we always focus on both national and local issues, because they are important in different ways,” McDonald said. “The goal is to develop an understanding of what an election is, and why voting is so important.”

Students also learn that having the responsibility to vote comes with many facets, McDonald said. 

“The final part is the understanding that we are allowed to have our own opinions but they can be private, and it is OK that we might not want to discuss those thoughts or feelings with everyone,” McDonald said. “We are also discussing that we need to respect each other even if our opinions are different.” 

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“The students are extremely excited with the planning and preparation of mail-in ballots – about 300 for students and staff that are in person,” McDonald said.

That process includes is correctly placing all necessary portions from return address labels, to address labels, to ballots, I voted stickers, and the ever-important voter signature to validate the ballot.

Students are tasked with organizing the process to ensure that all eligible voters on campus receive their ballot without delay and the final preparations for delivery and distribution days before the election. 

“At the same time, we realize that not all students are in the building, so we are creating an electronic version for those students to complete, so that all citizens of the Colina community have the chance to vote,” McDonald said.

On election day, students will be responsible for the collection of all mail-in ballots and checking online ballots, focusing on an accurate count of ballots received and votes to determine the winners, McDonald said. 

“The students have discussed the importance of knowing that every vote is counted correctly, so that the process and result are genuine,” McDonald said.

“The outcome that Colina wants to achieve is to develop children into educated and excited students that will grow up to be productive members of society,” McDonald said. “This includes being involved in their communities and voting for our leaders.”