Ecole Fox Run School ran a mock municipal election at noon, Oct. 12. All the same candidates that will be on the ballot for the real election on Oct. 16 were also on the student’s ballots. The goal is to have the students go through a similar process their parents are going to be engaged with so they have a better understanding of what’s actually happening at the polls.
Sean McWade, grade 7 teacher at Ecole Fox Run School has been running the program for the last couple of years with the help of CIVIX, a non-partisan, national registered charity that provides schools with lesson plans and materials to simulate an actual election.
“I’ve done it with the school each year that the federal election came around and the provincials. This one is a little tougher just because there’s really only one website where they can go and see a platform but it’s just good for them to get into it,” McWade said.
McWade has had a lot of kids ask him when the municipal election is. He finds when the kids are engaged through learning about the election, their parents tend to be more involved in the election themselves.
“I hear more from the parents than the kids [in parent/teacher interviews] about how much [the kids] liked it,”he said. “Kids come to them and say ‘I voted today’ and it gets the parents going out.”
This year, rather than making the election mandatory as he has in previous years, McWade has made the vote optional to compare the percentage of kids that came out to vote today with the adults who come out to vote next Monday.
He suspected the vote might be a little skewed as one of the candidates on the ballot is familiar to all the students.
“The kids might be swayed a little bit. Kendall Kloss was a teacher here last year so I have a feeling there might be a little bit of a bias,” McWade laughed.
In the end, the total number of ballots cast was 75 out of a student population of 377, lower than the average voter turnout in the town. The student’s favourite candidate was indeed Kendall Kloss with 62 votes.
The Alberta curriculum introduces the electoral process in grade six with not as much focus during grade seven and eight but McWade hopes having the mock elections will keep the process fresh in the student’s minds so they stay aware of the rights they have as Canadian citizens.
“We’re trying to instill the idea that we’re really privileged to have such great access to voting here. Sometimes kids take for granted just how much they have so it’s a great way to promote that they have a voice and that they can at least get some sense of how that voice can come out.
“Maybe they don’t see it as much right now but they will have practice at voicing their opinions and see some actual change with it,” he said
McWade has worked with CIVIX over his three years teaching at Fox Creek to continue cultivating awareness in all the grades. “CIVIX does a really good job. They give out lesson plans [that work with] the Alberta curriculum [and] we try to get as much information on candidates as possible. It’s up to to the teachers to decide how much they want to show but we try to provide as many resources as we can,”
According to the civix.ca website, “Student Vote is a parallel election for students under the voting age, coinciding with official election periods. The purpose is to provide young Canadians with an opportunity to experience the democratic process firsthand and practice the habits of informed and engaged citizenship.”
Schools that participate in the CVIX program receive materials such as posters and electoral ballots to create a true-to-life voting experience. The CIVIX Student Vote program has reached over 10 thousand schools and 4 million students across Canada.