Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Science and the 2012 Election?

Think the two have nothing to do with each other?  So did my students, until I did this project last week.

I had two extra days at the end of my first unit and wanted to do a small project with my class.  I was debating between two different types of projects; the first one would have something to do with the Curiosity Expedition and the characteristics of living things.  I liked that project, but I wanted to do something a little more relevant, so after watching the presidential debate a few weeks ago, I started to research into how I could tie the 2012 election in with my science curriculum.

Unfortunately, there aren't many great sites that let kids explore the issues of 2012 election in great depth.  The sites that I did find only focused on the major issues like the economy and foreign affairs, whereas I wanted information on where the candidates stood on issues related to energy and the environment.  After looking at a multitude of sites ranging from TIME for Kids to CNN, I decided to go right to the source - the websites for the Democratic and Republican Parties.  You could certainly use the sites for Barack Obama and Mitt Romney as well, but the former two websites seemed a little less biased.

I created a webquest to help my students navigate the two sites and asked them to answer specific questions about where the candidates stood on issues like clean energy, protecting the environment, and using foreign oil.  This part took them about 2 days (my periods are 45 minutes), and students were able to spend the last 15 minutes of the second day working on the second part of the project: the campaign.

I asked students to critically investigate these issues and choose a candidate whose ideals about energy and the environment (because I wanted to tie it back to science) matched their own.  They were then asked to campaign for their candidate by making a poster or brochure.  The project followed very specific criteria; the students needed to include pictures and captions and specific reasons why the reader should vote for their candidate (using the research they completed for their webquest).

The students became very involved with this project, which I really appreciated.  This is a very important topic and as citizens these students need to understand their responsibility in presidential elections.  I would hear students talk about it in the hallway and in other classrooms, however, some students took this discussion too far, and I unfortunately overheard students bullying each other into telling them who they would vote for, and then criticizing their opinions and beliefs.  On the following Monday, I had to have a discussion about when debating becomes bullying.  I asked my students to write a project reflection, and many of them stated it was hard to keep an open mind about who they would campaign for based on what they heard from their family and friends and what they saw on the news.  This particular presidential election seems to be more charged than past ones, so if I were to do this project again, I would have my students make more of an informational poster, rather than becoming fired up over why their candidate would be better than the other.  However, being able to defend a point of view and convince readers are two important skills, so I do believe the project was a success.

The students (and I) loved doing this project because it allowed students to see the pervasiveness of science in our every day lives.  Science teachers can become involved in the 2012 election as well!

To purchase the webquest, lesson plan, rubric, and project description for this project, please visit my TPT store.  Thank you!

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