Jayda Varner puts her ballot in the box after voting in Spring Street Academy’s mock election on Friday. Organized by Student Vote Canada, the election saw students in Grades 4 to 6 learn about elections and the democratic process before voting for who they want to be Amherst’s next mayor and town councilors. The results will be released following the closing of polls on Saturday at 7 p.m.
AMHERST – Picking the right candidates for the job is difficult at the best of times.
Trying picking six out 16, or one out of six for mayor. Those choices were made by students in Grades 4 to 6 at Spring Street Academy in Amherst on Friday as part of a mock municipal election reflecting the process adults voters will be going through on Saturday when they elect a new town council.
“It’s not easy to pick who to vote for. There are so many choices,” Grade 6 student Makalya LeBlanc said after casting ballots with her classmates.
Like many of their peers across Nova Scotia, the 124 Spring Street Academy students participated in a unique hands-on learning program that provides students under the voting age with the opportunity to experience the democratic process and build the habits of active and engaged citizenship.
Organized by Student Vote Canada, the process engages students in the electoral process and helps them learn about local government. Participants were able to learn about the issues and the candidates through classroom activities, family discussion and campaign events.
The students cast ballots on Friday, very similar to the ballots that will be marked during Saturday’s municipal election.
The student vote is the flagship program of CIVIX, Canada’s leading civic education charity. Since 2003, CIVIX has co-ordinated 31 student vote programs for all elections at the municipal, provincial and federal levels.
“Student Vote is an excellent way for students under the voting age to become familiar with the electoral process and learn about government at its various levels and it fits very well with our social studies curriculum,” Spring Street Academy principal Heather Janes Pedersen said. “In this parallel election, students had the opportunity to learn about the municipal candidates, discuss relevant issues and subsequently cast ballots as they would if they were voting in the actual election.”
Grade 6 teacher Amy O’Neill-Fuller said the students showed tremendous interest in the project. While the candidates were not invited to come to the school, the students were encouraged to collect pamphlets and talk about the election with their parents.
One of the students even attended the mayors’ forum hosted by the community health boards and the Amherst and Area Chamber of Commerce.
“I know they put a lot of thought into who they were voting for,” O’Neill Fuller said. “Some of them were very interested in it.”
Student Jayda Varner said she’s looking forward to being able to vote for real in several years.