Judging by participation in Student Vote, children in Alberta and across Canada are more politically engaged than ever.
The program enables students to vote in a mock election that parallels actual federal, provincial, territorial and municipal elections. The experience includes ballots listing the actual candidates in students’ home ridings.
Nationwide, participation grew from 28 per cent of schools during the 2011 federal election to about 50 per cent for the 2015 federal election, an increase that represents more than 7,500 schools. In Alberta, where participation is historically among the highest in the nation, the rate rose from 37 per cent of schools in 2011 to more than 62 per cent in 2015.
In part, the increase can likely be attributed to the fact that Student Vote has been engaging and encouraging teachers to participate for the last 12 years, said Lindsay Mazzucco, chief operating officer of CIVIX, the non-profit behind the program.
“I also think it’s quite an exciting election, so people are interested and want to be involved,” she said.
Part of the aim of Student Vote is to encourage students to take their interest in democracy back home and inspire their parents to vote. Often an increase in student engagement will correlate to an increase in voter turnout, Mazzucco said.
“We’re very pleased and thankful to the ATA and other education stakeholders that have helped to promote the program to their members and schools.”
Grade 6 teacher Janice Bogner, of Belvedere Elementary in Edmonton, said this federal election marked her third time participating in Student Vote, which aligns nicely with the democracy curriculum in social studies.
“It’s just a concrete way for kids to participate in what the adults are doing,” she said. “I really do believe that, as a citizen, people should be voting, so it’s a way for them to actually get a little taste of that.”
Her students do much more than just choose a name on the ballot. They look into the candidates and have conversations about what each one represents.
“Walking through and actually carrying it all out I think will help them understand the process a lot better,” she said. ❚