To The Best of My Ability...

Students will work collaboratively to create their own political parties and platforms of beliefs in an engaging classroom simulation.

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UPDATE - 9/28: Measuring Leadership

Thought it would be cool to share how students "create their candidate" for this project. 

To begin, each student gets a piece of paper where they are told to list and then prioritize the skills they think are most important for a president to get elected. Things like experience, charisma, speaking ability, and intellect come up usually, but sometimes so do things like military experience and religiousness.

Eventually, they move into groups where they must discuss and come to a consensus on the top three. The process is guided by news articles and a rubric.  Theprocess of going from individual sheets to group ones is lengthy, but at the end, they have discussed each attribute, decided   


UPDATE - 9/22: What Makes a Great Leader?

Although much of this project revolves around the idea of the team effort required to get the president elected, the project begins with a discussion of what characteristics make a president successful. We start this part of the project out with a graffiti protocol with pictures of contemporary leaders that they can write descriptors for. We then discuss as a class which positive descriptors came up over and over again and why they are important for a presidential candidate. 

From there, the class begins to construct the "persona" of their candidate by prioritizing these stats. They look at things like is it more important to be trustworthy or have military experience? Is charisma as important as intellect? From there, they create a "role playing sheet" for whoever eventually plays the role of the candidate in their production.  

This idea of leadership characteristics comes back again and again when they begin building their advertisements and their videos for their campaign. And it gives them an idea of what our current leaders and future presidents should be like in order to be effective, helping make that connection to Civics.      


HERE IS THE ORIGINAL POST - 

The American Presidency is about more than just one person. Too often we forget that the monumental work of the executive office is carried out by an army of millions of federal employees even if the ship of state has a single figurehead. 

This is true of the election cycle as well. During my 10 years of teaching social studies I was surprised to see that many students had no idea that a presidential candidates don't write their own speeches, or plan their own campaign stops, or crunch the numbers regarding polling data. In fact, during the activity i'm proposing in this design challenge, they learned that the candidate actually doesn't have a whole lot of control over the process. 

To illustrate this in a fun and engaging manner, I designed a simulation where students plan their own presidential campaigns and compete with other 8th grade classes at our school to win the election. They study the difference between conservative and liberal thought by analyzing the issues and news stories that speak to them and use this foundation to build their own campaign platform. From there, they organize themselves into roles and using their knowledge of the electoral college plan every aspect of their own campaign, all of which authentically mimics real campaign work. 

The engage them in their community, students reach out to actual advocacy groups and elected officials to get advice on crafting their message and connecting to voters. Through these connections with real political groups, students realize that politics is more than just getting votes, it's about crafting ideas that make their own lives better. 

At the end of the project, there is a mock "election night" where the returns come in. Students then reflect on what they've learned about to process.

Interested in hearing more about how this amazing project works? Share your thoughts and join our team!  

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Photo of Garreth

Hey James,

This:   "students reach out to actual advocacy groups and elected officials to get advice on crafting their message and connecting to voters. Through these connections with real political groups, students realize that politics is more than just getting votes, it's about crafting ideas that make their own lives better. "

That's such a great realization of the similarities between representative democracies and the design process.  I've often quoted a designer who I have long since forgotten.  He said that designers ask two questions about the world:  Why are things the way they are? and How can we make them better?  Your project is getting students to do the same thing, and to see that civic mindedness is really, also, about the same questions.  Connecting to voters, at least if it's in a real and authentic way, is just like building empathy for the user in Design Thinking.  

I love all the potential for students to see that things don't just happen, there's intention and purpose behind the scenes (as you rightly note), and it is that intention that makes this such a tight fit with design.

Photo of James

I love that idea of why are things they way they are and where do we go from here. It fits into my class context as a social studies teacher very seamlessly and provides a good place to start from. Would love to know more about ways to make the "behind the scenes" happenings something that could be made more part of the project. 

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