Hurley students pick Obama in mock election

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 4, 2008

By Sarah Nagem
For the record, most Hurley Elementary fourth-graders want Sen. Barack Obama to win the presidential election today.
“Landslide,” Janice Raper said after she finished counting the youngsters’ ballots cast in a mock election Monday.
Obama, a Democrat, won 52 votes to beat out Republican Sen. John McCain, who won 21 votes.
But the election at Hurley wasn’t just about the winner and loser. It was about learning the issues that matter, like the environment, education, war, taxes and gasoline prices, teachers said.
“We wanted them to form their own opinions,” said Raper, who teaches academically gifted classes at Hurley and is the regional teacher of the year.
Fourth-graders created projects to highlight candidates’ positions on the issues. Some made posters. Others put on skits.
As part of the unit, 9-year-old Macy Burleyson wore a homemade Obama mask and stood behind a piece of cardboard that was cut to look like a television. Playing the part of the Illinois senator, she gave the message that the country should bring troops home from Iraq.
It’s not a message that young Burleyson necessarily believes. She voted for McCain, she said, mostly because her parents support the Arizona senator.
But regardless of who won these students’ votes, the goal was to learn a thing or two about issues that matter.
Kaitlyn Vanhoose, 9, considered what she had learned about global warming from studying the candidates’ positions.
“When you’re driving, all the pollution gets in the air,” she said.
On health care, 9-year-old Marleigh Adams had this to say: “We should lower prices so people can go to the doctor whenever they need to.”
Adams and her classmates have nearly a decade before they will be old enough to cast ballots in a real election. But the experience is beneficial, teachers said.
“It’s a real-life situation,” fourth-grade teacher Tiffany Smith said. “It’s happening now.”
This kind of project-based learning is popular, Raper said. Instead of asking students to simply read from textbooks, they’re doing hands-on activities.
“This is real-world problems, and they were using critical-thinking skills to solve problems,” Raper said.
Most students had a specific reason as to why they voted for Obama or McCain.
Dasia Steele, 9, cast her vote for Obama.
“Because he will bring back troops to their home,” Steele said. “The people in the wars are getting killed.”
Some students said the war in Iraq is the most important issue in this election.
Jake Murphy, 10, said he voted for McCain because of the war.
“He wants to get the war done and keep adding soldiers,” Murphy said.
Other students gave different reasons for their choices.
Nine-year-old Lizette Hernandez voted for Obama.
“I heard my brother say everybody was rooting for Obama because he said he was going to let Mexicans drive, and McCain didn’t,” she said. Obama has voiced support for letting illegal immigrants get driver’s licenses.
Raper said she wasn’t surprised by the results of the mock election.
“Just listening to them talk … it seemed to be the war and the economy that stuck in the children’s minds,” she said. “I think they see Obama as the one who can get us out of the war.”