On Tuesday, Feb. 10, four students from Ray Schwab's fifth grade class at Mary D. Lang Elementary School in Kennett Square represented their school at the Pennsylvania Educational Technology Expo and Conference in Hershey, PA. During the 2-day expo, vendors from around the globe presented their latest and greatest technology tools. The vendors however, were not the focus of attention at the conference, it was the students from all over the state showcasing their projects that stole the show.Schwab submitted the showcase application for the school's Mock Election project to PETE & C in November and four students, Ty Maxwell, Duncan Smith, Aubrey Robinson, and Samantha Goss, accompanied their Social Studies teacher and the building principal, Susan McArdle to the event.
The student showcase consisted of a reenactment of the Mock Election that was conducted in November which included ballots, a ballot box, multimedia presentations, and colorful brochures illustrating each candidate's views on five major issues; education, economy, healthcare, Iraq, and the environment. Students also dressed the part with large top hats & bright blue shirts which were easy to spot as they circulated throughout the Chocolate Ballroom, bringing potential voters to the table to view their projects, listen to their candidate's views, and participate in the Mock Election.
Onlookers were also attracted to the 10 iPod touches which displayed the multimedia description of the project and video captured during the mock election, the dual video monitors exploding with the student's Keynote presentation of their candidates views, and the colorful banners, photos, and newspaper articles celebrating the event.
Aubrey Robinson, one of the student presenters said about the showcase experience, "I learned a lot from the other booths that were there and I was lucky I got to go. A lot of people voted and we got to teach other people about our project. I was excited the whole time because of all the compliments people were saying about us and the project."
Since the start of October, fifth grade students have been researching John McCain and Barack Obama's political beliefs online and in magazines. With this research they created informational brochures about the two candidates using Pages, an Apple iWork application. These brochures gave the reader background information on each topic, their candidates view, as well as their personal opinion of their candidate's beliefs and goals.
All fifth grade students then traveled from class to class to present their brochures to the students in grades K-4, trying to persuade them to vote for their candidate. On October 27, 2008, the students of Mary D. Lang participated in a mock election. All students, from kindergarten to fifth grade, filled out a ballot and voted in our school's first school-wide mock election. Teacher Marie Hess stated about the experience, "It was exciting for my first grade students to hear the fifth graders give information about their candidate.
The first graders then used the information they heard to choose who they would vote for in the mock election. It was a valuable educational experience for all involved!" Roseann Barnes, the school's music teacher rejoiced, "It allowed the rest of the school to share in their success and be informed about an important event in the news and in history. Well done, Ray and the students!"
This project allowed students to become truly invested in their work. Fifth grade teacher Katie King proclaimed, "It was great to watch the students take on a leadership role within the school. It showed us all that the things we've been teaching have been sinking in." For about a month students researched online and in magazines to create the most informational brochure they could.
Not only did students learn valuable information about our country's current events, but they also discovered the importance these topics have on their future. By researching these current events, students became aware of the issues in today's world. The student's "awareness" quickly turned into enthusiasm for their candidate. The enthusiasm of the 5th grade students rapidly spread throughout the school as they made persuasive presentations in every classroom. Not only did the students in 5th grade benefit from this project, but also the entire student body became more knowledgeable as well.
Upon reflecting on the students' accomplishments, Mr. Schwab stated, "The projects turned out extremely well. So well, that student who had brothers and sisters in our middle school brought them into their government classes to use as a resource for a project. Our students were extremely motivated to create the best brochure they could using Pages. Using technology allows students to create a product that they are proud to stand behind. Without these brochures our mock election would not have been the same. Also, the other students at our school who viewed the brochures would not have had the same experience."
The accomplishments of the students in Mr. Schwab's fifth grade Social Studies class can be best exemplified by a statement made by then Senator Obama while on the campaign trail in October 2008 at a high school near Dayton, Ohio, "By fostering innovation, we can help make sure every school in America is a school of the future." A goal the students of Mary D. Lang Elementary School are one step closer to accomplishing.