Local politicians advise Rainbow fifth-graders on elections, voting

MADISON – To better understand the American political process, Rainbow Elementary School fifth-graders staged a mock election, using first-hand strategies from local politicians for Election Day.

Rainbow fifth-grader Thomas Ballard listens to campaign strategy from Madison County Commissioner Steve Haraway. (CONTRIBUTED)
Rainbow fifth-grader Thomas Ballard listens to campaign strategy from Madison County Commissioner Steve Haraway. (CONTRIBUTED)

“It’s estimated that 58 percent of voters voted in the last presidential election. Even less (people) vote in local elections,” Rainbow enrichment team member Emily Peck said.

“Voting is a right and a privilege. Hopefully, these students will see that and participate when they grow up,” Peck said.

The Rainbow enrichment team explained facts about elections to all five classrooms of fifth-graders. Then, they staged a primary for students to elect one boy and one girl as candidates and four boys and four girls as delegates to a convention.

“At the convention, the delegates chose their nominee — much like the national conventions we see on TV,” Peck said.

Delegates designed their campaign strategy. While the conventions and strategy sessions were meeting, the remaining students as voters participated in various exercises.

“They learned about the history of campaigning and took part in a scholastic exercise on how they would design a budget if they were elected president or how would they appoint a cabinet if elected,” parent volunteer Ranae Bartlett said. All students then gathered for candidate speeches and to cast their votes.

Sessions lasted two hours. “It was fast moving, but the students had lots of fun and learned a great deal,” Peck said.

In addition, candidates worked with coaches with real-life political experience, Madison County Commissioner Steve Haraway and Madison City Councilman Ronica Ondoscin. Haraway and Ondoscin helped them write and develop speeches.

Haraway met with the male candidates and Ondoscin talked with the females. They advised the student delegates about campaign strategy, Bartlett said.

The enrichment team’s goal was to give students a lesson “that takes them beyond the textbook. Hopefully, they not only learned the A, B, C’s of elections and lawmaking but also the importance of being an active voter and citizen,” Peck said.

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