Civics in Action – Hands-on Learning for Middle School Students

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Provided by Prince William County Schools (PWCS)

Students at Beville Middle School participated in a mock election

We learn by doing. Eighth-graders at Beville Middle School put that concept into practice today by participating in a mock election, following procedures that will be in place next Tuesday, Nov. 7, Election Day. Students voted for candidates in the statewide offices of governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general at a “polling station” set up in the school’s gym. A total of 380 students were scheduled to vote.

“This simulation gives [the students]a chance to participate in the democratic process. It brings home what the actual result of the election process is,” said civics teacher Cynthia Wiemer.

Volunteers of the local League of Women Voters used class rosters to verify eligibility when students presented their photo identification or student number. Once their identity was verified, students were given sample ballots. Poll workers explained to students that they should fill in the boxes on the ballot instead of checking them, an important reminder when ballots are scanned to compute the tally. Students cast their ballots behind privacy screens.

One student went through the line a second time, curious to see if she could vote twice, said Atif Quarni, civics teacher who began the tradition of mock elections at Beville many years ago. “She was stopped,” he said.

This exercise in democracy was the culminating activity of a civics unit. Students studied the election cycle, watched the debates between the candidates, researched the issues, learned about media bias, and analyzed television ads and mass mailings.

“Representatives from the Democrat and Republication parties also came in and spoke about their philosophies,” Quarni said. “After the election on Nov. 7, we plan to do a debrief by comparing the mock election results to the results in the Commonwealth and also to the Beville Precinct results.”

Who did students pick as winners? In the governor’s race, the winner was Ralph Northam; Justin Fairfax won the election for lieutenant governor; and John Adams was the pick for attorney general.


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