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Votes

DES Students Vote in Mock Election

Last week's mock election resulted in the re-election of president George W. Bush.

At Dranesville Elementary School last week, President George W. Bush was re-elected for another term.

Participating in a two-day mock election where they experienced the same voting process their parents had at the polls Nov. 2, 731 students elected Bush by 84 votes over U.S. Sen. John Kerry.

"It was Bush, but not by a majority," said Carol Buteau, Gifted and Talented teacher at Dranesville who headed the sixth grade election curriculum.

Making history for the school, Buteau selected the first lesson plans that taught the sixth grade classes about the presidential electoral process, including the opportunity for the entire student body to vote in a mock election.

"We learned that the popular vote sometimes doesn't matter, it's the electoral college that counts," said Raja Singh, a sixth grader at Dranesville, about what he thought was the most important thing he learned.

"I took a critical and a creative approach," said Buteau, adding the selected lessons emphasized the required standards of learning curriculum. "I wanted them thinking, not about who they were voting for, but about how it all works."

In the end, the tallied results showed Bush won with 402 votes, Kerry had 318, Ralph Nader had 8 and there were three write-ins for teachers.

"A lot of people wanted to vote for Ralph Nader," said sixth grader Carllyn Hennessey. "But after we learned about the electoral vote, we realized he had no possibility of winning."

Buteau said she found her lesson plans from the College of William & Mary's lesson book, "The Road to the White House Project," and selected what she thought would be most appropriate for the sixth grade level.

"I had them look at political cartoons and also conduct a Gallup Poll, where they had to go home and ask two adults questions," she said, explaining students asked their parents as well as older siblings who just turned 18, what they thought were the most important qualities in a leader.

TO LEARN MORE about the candidates and the issues they were campaigning for, selected students headed a television show where they would highlight the presidential campaigns and present them to their peers.

"I voted for Kerry because he wants to stop drilling oil in Alaska," said sixth grader Ryan Gist about his vote. "I don't agree with the Iraqi war — we went to war for the wrong reasons — and he wants to stop shipping jobs overseas and have more jobs at home."

Buteau explained some students came into the class with more knowledge about the candidates and the electoral process than their peers.

"Some [students] had been spending a lot of time at dinner with their families," said Buteau about how students were learning about the elections. "[One] particular little girl had more information about the electoral process."

As for the mock election, Buteau said that was not her idea.

Instead the school's librarian took the initiative and asked Kathy Blystone, a parent volunteer, if she would help create voting booths so the entire school could vote.

"They're taking it very seriously," said Blystone as she watched third graders vote last week.

Linda Gordon, Dranesville Elementary School instructional assistant, said she was happy to see so many students becoming so involved in the learning process.

"These kids, in six years, are going to vote," said Gordon. "It's important for them to understand how a democracy works at an early age and understand our whole electoral process."

Buteau agreed, saying the earlier students can start learning about the electoral process the better.

"I was amazed by the little light bulbs that would go off in these kids," she said. "It was nice to have different kids be interested that you didn't think would be interested."

Although the school already elected its next United States President, Buteau said she will spend the next few weeks working with the students on political cartoons and is interested to see what they create after the real presidential election results are announced.

"These kids were really amazed that all the votes are not counted," she said. "I think they'll definitely be more interested [in the election] now."