Mock election gives students real-world experience

Photos by Sarah Ann Jump/The Herald
Handmade signs supporting Lottie the dog and hat day hang on the stage as Dubois Middle School fifth-graders cast their votes and eighth-graders work as security during the school's election in Dubois on Tuesday morning. Eighth-graders also handed out "I voted" stickers, collected voter registration cards and distributed pamphlets about participating in democracy.

By LEANN BURKE
lburke@dcherald.com

DUBOIS — As Dubois County adults take to the polls today for the midterm elections, students at Dubois Middle School voted in an election of their own.

At DMS, students voted on three possible initiatives for the school: Friday hat days; Principal Ryan Case’s dog, Lottie, serving the school as a comfort dog; and getting a vending machine for the school. Only one of the three will win.

The election served as a schoolwide civics lesson, with students selecting the three initiatives, registering to vote, giving and listening to speeches, and voting on the national Election Day.

“I wanted to do something impactful that they could leave their footprint on the school,” said seventh- and eighth-grade social studies teacher Andres Schroeder, who oversaw the election.

In addition to voting, all the eighth-graders also had different jobs for today’s election, such as taking voter registration cards, handing out ballots, security, and handing out “I Voted” stickers and pamphlets about participating in democracy.

Dubois Middle School principal Ryan Case's golden doodle Lottie visits with students while wearing a "Vote for Lottie" sign before the school's election on Tuesday morning. The students had the option to vote for Lottie to become the school dog.

The idea for the election came out of a partnership between Schroeder’s eighth-grade U.S. history classes and the fifth-grade classes, where eighth-graders act as mentors to the younger students. Both grade levels study the U.S. election system in some way, so organizing a schoolwide election seemed like a good project for the groups to take on.

Students came up with the three initiatives on the ballot and made campaign posters and fliers. On Friday, each student filled out a mock voter registration card, which was their ticket to vote when the school ran its election this morning.

The school’s mock election also included campaign speeches. Three eighth-graders — Austin Wood, Kendall Buechler and Emma Schneider — delivered speeches to each grade level in support of one of the three initiatives Monday morning. Austin spoke in support of a weekly hat day on Fridays, where students can pay $1 to wear a hat to school. The money raised would be donated back to the community through school fundraisers, scholarships or in aid to families in need.

Kendall spoke in favor of either getting a new vending machine for the school or fixing up the one that currently sits unused. If that initiative wins, students will be able to purchase healthy snacks and drinks such as Gatorade and water, and granola bars between classes or when the cafeteria is closed.

As adults cast their ballots at the polls in the Dubois Middle School gym, fifth-grader Will Livingston votes for Lottie the golden doodle to become the school dog in the multipurpose room on Tuesday morning. Students had a choice of three ballot measures.

Emma spoke on behalf of Lottie coming to the school to serve as a comfort dog. Lottie, who has completed obedience classes and is currently taking canine good citizenship classes, already comes to the school about once a month, but the students would like to have her around more often.

Sixth-grader Bridget Gehlhausen planned to vote to have Lottie come to school more often.

“I have a dog at my house, and I know whenever I get sad, I can just go sit with it and feel better,” Gehlhausen said.

Although Emma spoke in favor of Lottie, she said she’ll probably vote for the vending machine.

“[Case] already brings Lottie in every once in awhile, which is what he would be doing with this,” she said. “I think the better option would be the vending machine, because it will be here all the time.”

Through her experience with the project, Emma said, she’s learned that elections aren’t about the speeches or debates; they’re about people’s needs and wants.

Dubois Middle School eighth-graders Jacob Harder, left, and Andrew Cave hand out "I voted today" stickers to fifth-grader Grace Kluesner during the school's election on Tuesday morning.



More on DuboisCountyHerald.com