, Derry, New Hampshire

November 8, 2012

East Derry students take on political process

By Julie Huss
Derry News

---- — DERRY — Braden Tremain took his time behind the curtain.

The second-grader then emerged with ballot in hand.

Braden joined with his East Derry Memorial Elementary School classmates and took part in a mock election Nov. 1.

The election was part of the school’s plan to introduce students to the political process and let them vote for their favorite presidential candidate.

“I voted for Obama,” Braden announced as he cleared the red, white and blue curtain covering the voting booth.

He then got an official sticker to wear on his shirt.

Braden didn’t learn too much about his particular choice prior to voting, staff said, but children are learning how good it is to take part in an official process.

“It’s really just to teach kids that voting is important,” East Derry principal Kim Carpentino said.

Third-grade teacher Marty Sheil helped plan the mock election. He said East Derry’s final results would be tabulated and sent on to the state, then to be included in the National Student Mock Election program.

Sheil said the process teaches a lot.

“It gives students a greater understanding of civics and the importance of voting,” he said. “Hopefully, some of their parents are modeling it at home with discussions, etc.”

And what the students learn by listening at home sometimes helps the outcome for one candidate over another.

Sheil said in 2008, when Obama won the presidency, he won New Hampshire, but Derry voters gave the most votes to challenger John McCain.

The eventual national student tallies may give a good indication of what certain communities in states are thinking, especially when a student may be hearing talk at home about politics.

“We try to make that school-to-home connection,” Sheil said. “We encourage them, we say here’s the process you have two choices.

Students also had to register in advance of voting day, but could still register at the polls. Teachers also got the ballots in advance of the election.

Sheil said the state provided models of information to use in the classroom.

The school’s PTA and other parent volunteers helped with the election. Sheil said he and Carpentino were in charge of constructing the voting booth and ballot box.

“It was a collaborative effort,” he said.