President George W. Bush (R) and Sen. John Kerry (D) made a last-minute campaign stop at Crestwood Elementary School the week before the election.
Except these candidates were 4 feet tall, and their faces looked, well, a little rubbery.
"I’m not really sure how I got to wear the mask. I’m still trying to figure it out," said Ramon Majia, a sixth-grader at Crestwood. "It gets kind of hot, and I sweat a lot."
Majia — as Bush — and classmate Steven Dinarte played the parts of the major party nominees for president during the school’s mock election on Tuesday, Oct. 26.
Unlike years past, Crestwood students in grades three through six conducted their elections in the halls of the school, at makeshift voting booths, following a 2 1/2-week lesson on the election process, which integrated aspects of reading, writing and social studies curriculums.
"I think it’s fun because we get to say who we want to be president. We don’t have to wait around to see who our family votes for," said Jennifer Sweetapple, a sixth-grader.
DURING THE election unit, students learned how to register to vote, about the electoral college, the process of running for office, and how to vote on Election Day. Sixth-graders researched the candidates and wrote a paper about which issues they would focus on if they were president.
"We wanted to make the connection to the real world, and what’s better than the upcoming election?" said sixth-grade teacher Carol McNertney. "The kids just went wild on it and wanted to know if we could do an electoral college."
So, instead of just the usual class-by-class popular vote, McNertney and the other sixth-grade teachers constructed an "electoral college," using the ratio of students per class to determine how many electoral votes each class would get. In the end, the electoral college might have needed some tweaking, as Bush won the popular vote, but Kerry gained a victory in the electoral vote.
Students registered to vote the week prior to the election, filling out a sheet and receiving voter registration cards. The week leading up to the election, Majia and Dinarte were on the stump at various classrooms, encouraging students to vote and reminding them of when and where they would do so.
"It raised a lot of issues. Once you give the kids something, and they start researching, you find out they have a lot of ideas," said McNertney.
"We hope they can learn what it means to run for an office, and what the purpose of an office is, for responsibility, as opposed to a popularity contest," said sixth-grade teacher Dennis Barbi.
On Election Day, students voted in shifts, with each class trooping down the hall and the students waiting in line, voter cards in their hands, until it was their turn. When they approached the booth, they checked in and marked their ballot.
"It’s special to vote, it’s an honor to vote," said sixth-grader Alba Cerna, who donned a wig to play the part of Uncle Sam.
"Other people fight for their freedom to vote," said Alba. "Some people, who are born here, they have the freedom to vote, but they just don’t. They don’t really care."