Why Voting is Important
By Leilani W and Sophie T / Upper Elementary
Why is voting important? While unraveling this question we realized that voting isn’t something that just affects grown-ups, but it also affects kids. Because things that we care about, like saving the animals, climate change, and so much more, can be changed if we have the right people in office, like mayors, senators, and the president. But how do we get these people in power? By voting. So we will unravel the history of voting, how we vote, and why voting is important in this essay.
First of all, where did voting even come from? Was everyone automatically able to vote? “Well before the revolutionary war, votes were cast not by ballot, but by voice,” we learned from Gil Troy in a Time article. Before the revolution, voting happened in carnivals. People would call out their votes, and be counted. But because this was so public, this method was very easy to fake with. But even though this was a public voting system, not everyone got to vote. Originally, In the 1700s, the colonies, and later on, the states, made property requirements to vote. This meant you had to be wealthy, you had to be white, and you had to be a man, to vote.
During this time, slavery still existed - and it would continue to for the next 160 years. So that’s more than 18% of the population that was unable to vote, because they were considered property. Then there were women, who were not able to vote at the time either, and they were about half the population. So most of the population in America could not vote at all.
“Still voting remained public, until the 1800s, as voters would sign their names under the candidates name or another’s on a public ballot,” Troy continued. This method had a bit of an advantage of being easy to count, and hard to fake, but the method was better for smaller elections.
By about 1820 states took away the property ownership law, so all white men gained suffrage which means the right to vote. This was a step up, but not enough.
Troy explains, “As the size of the American government grew, and parties became more established, and known, printed ballots became more common. Each party would give out ballots with the names of the officials running the offices that were up for election.” Voters would take a ballot from the party that they wanted, fill it out, and drop it in the box to be counted.
Later on, after the civil war, the 15th amendment was passed. The 15th Amendment was passed in 1870, and granted men of any race, the right to vote. Even though it was lawful for men of color to vote, people still tried to stop them by making them take unfair tests, and using an unfair rule called the Grandfather Clause. The Grandfather clause was a constitutional regulation for seven southern states between 1895, and 1910 to deny suffrage to African Americans, saying that if your grandfather couldn’t vote, then you couldn’t. This was unfair, because many of these African American men in 1895 were the first of their generation to vote.
“Once the 19th century arrived, American politics had grown increasingly divisive, and the secrecy of a person’s vote became more important,” says Troy. After the Civil War, the term “vest-pocket” voting emerged to refer to people who kept their ballots in their pocket, instead of having them displayed openly as you walked to the polling place. This was around the same time when women were granted the right to vote with the 19th amendment in 1920, doubling the amount of people voting.
When the 23rd amendment was passed in 1961, it finally gave the people who live in Washington DC the right to vote for the president, and vice president. The 24th amendment was passed in 1964. It was passed to prevent poll taxes so that rich, and poor citizens have equal access to vote.
In addition to the amendments, there have also been many laws passed dealing with voting rights. We will go over one. The voting rights act of 1965 was passed to give the U.S. government more power over the states to prevent states from using unfair laws. This had to happen because despite the 15th amendment- the one that got passed in 1829 giving men of all races the right to vote- racist people still found ways to prevent African Americans equal access to vote.
Voting has changed exponentially over time in the United States, but there is still much to do to change voting, so it is more fair. These are just a few of the changes that have happened. Since voting is so different from how it was such a long time ago, why not we learn how we vote now?
Well how do we vote now? First you have to register yourself so they can tell you the place in your area to vote. There are often many different places set up so it probably won't be far. So when you get to the voting place near where you live, first you give the people your first and last name, your driver's license, and then they will hand you a voting ballot, and that's when you go into the curtain to begin voting. But lately, there have been machines used instead of paper.
Once you finish pressing the buttons on the machine, the machine will print out a ballot. You will probably be voting for mayor, governor, and president and other people running for office. When you finish voting you slide the ballet in a box, and then they will hand you an I voted or an I voted today sticker. Voting now is way different than how people voted before. But this does lead us to one more question.
So really, why is voting important? When you vote, you make your voice heard. You help people see your point of view. If you don’t vote, then how can the people that you want get in office? How can the world change? And even though us kids can’t vote, we can still make a difference. We do this by writing to the people in power, and starting organizations that help our causes. We can also educate ourselves, and other people on voting. So when it comes time to vote, we are ready!
In the beautiful month of May, the Upper Elementary class takes an exciting trip to Maryland and stays four nights at Echo Hill Outdoor School (E.H.O.S.) to extend their outdoor and environmental studies, and of course to have fun! The fifth and fourth grade class stays at the E.H.O.S. campground while the sixth grade class often takes a daring and adventurous boat trip.
Although it is a place to learn, we have fun outside our regular activities: hayrides, meeting new friends from other schools, bonfires, roasting marshmallows, etc. Other things we learned about this week is that if you chew a lifesaver with your mouth open, you can see sparks! A big part of Echo Hill is the delicious food served buffet style daily, however if you don’t finish your food because you put too much on your plate, it goes into the “slop” bucket (S.L.O.P. stands for Stuff Left On Plate). The slop is weighed at the end of the meal, and added up after our last meal before leaving. The least amount of slop the better. The three schools in attendance one week accumulated 70 lbs of slop. We still have a lot to learn about wasting food!
During our extra time in between lessons, you can head down to the beach and canoe, beach hike, wade, or sit and talk, or if the beach isn’t appealing, you can wander, play ball on the ball courts, or stay on the tent side and shower or read. We met old friends and new ones and had lots of fun. The tents weren’t luxurious, but that made it more fun. The bug nets kept out the bugs so they didn’t crawl on you in the middle of the night.
To end our amazing journey at Echo Hill we walked down to the Merick Hall and had a Stick Ceremony. The Stick Ceremony is where one by one a classmate takes a stick, says what they loved about Echo Hill and what they will miss, and throws the stick into the fire. This was a very sentimental part of the trip. One fifth grader said, “It was my favorite part of the trip because we played games and everyone had fun!” Another fifth grader said, “I liked that we could throw sticks into the fire so a little part of us would always be there.”
Each class was fun and unique, and we learned many things. It was a week worth attending!
Compiled by Upper Elementary students
Recommended reading for parents:
How to Help Kids With Sleepover Anxiety by Beth Arky of the Child Mind Institute, viewed May 13 2019, [https://childmind.org/article/how-to-help-kids-with-sleepover-anxiety/]
Homesick and Happy: How Time Away From Parents Can Help Children Grow, by Michael Thompson
Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature Deficit Disorder, by Richard Louv
The Nature Principle: Reconnecting With Life In a Virtual Age, by Richard Louv
In accordance with Montessori philosophy, an important function of an Elementary Montessori educator is to give students explicit lessons in practical life. Practical life lessons encompass what we do each day to sustain our own health and to maintain a positive relationship with our immediate community and society at large. Practical life work is important and beneficial for the elementary Montessori student, as it meets the needs of a child in the second plane of development and it develops the skills necessary for defining and finding one’s own unique, specific role in society.
Upper Elementary students routinely go outside of the classroom to extend their studies. Procedures for going out as well as expected behavior while outside of the classroom are explained to Upper Elementary students. Topics may include Grace and Courtesy while planning a going out (phone manners), how to speak to a docent or guide, how to behave at a museum etc., how to read a map, how to ask for directions, how to behave on public transportation, how to order food at a restaurant, and how to follow up your visit with a thank you note to your expert guide or docent.
Children in the second plane of development differ from first plane children in a number of ways, and the practical life curriculum speaks to these differences. The second plane is “a period for the acquisition of culture, just as the former was for the absorption of the environment” (Montessori, 1989, p. 3). The practical life curriculum delivers lessons in the acquisition of culture that are now of great interest to the child.
Practical life work develops real life skills that can be used immediately and routinely during real life experiences in an effective way. This empowering experience of mastering real life skills builds confidence in the second plane child. This development of social confidence provides a very effective model to the child for their developing academic skills and confidence. The sense of responsibility developed in practical life easily translates to academic responsibility. Students who make and follow a weekly work plan clearly know that what they plan and what they do is important and effective. Other academic skills developed through work in practical life include increased focus, lengthened attention span, improved problem-solving and critical thinking.
Practical Life work develops skills necessary for establishing and maintaining a positive relationship with the community and with society. The delivery of the Montessori curriculum, including the practical life curriculum, serves a critical social need.
An extremely important social task lies before us: activating man’s value, allowing him to attain the maximum development of his energies, truly preparing him to bring about a different form of human society on a higher plane. (Montessori, 1992, p. xiii)
The practical life curriculum effectively contributes to activating the self-value of the second plane child. Lessons in going out afford him authentic, real world experiences, validating the importance of his role within society.
Montessori, M. (1989). To educate the human potential. Oxford: ABC-Clio Ltd.
Montessori, M. (1992). Education and peace. Oxford: ABC-Clio Ltd.
Who doesn’t love to try on a different persona? To be someone completely different, with a completely different personality, qualities, attitudes, capabilities and problems; to be funny, angry ridiculous, serious, sad or distraught. Every year, Upper Elementary students become someone else in a different time period, in a different setting, and with a unique set of circumstances through their involvement in a school play.
PREPARATION IS A FULL TEAM EFFORT
Mrs. Beck chooses plays early in the school year according to what the students will be studying in Culture. After a final decision is made, Mrs. Cooper and I meet in October to brainstorm about a setting and props that need to be made, and in November, we do a read-through of the play. I then begin to prepare students for auditions. From that point to the final show, the Upper El classroom buzzes with excitement, anticipation and maybe a little bit of anxiety. Their heads spin with ideas about their character’s actions and words, phrases or the lines they want to add to make their scene more humorous. (We often go with their ideas, because they really are funny!)
Here is the story of Pandora’s Socks and Other Fractured Greek Myths.
EXERCISES DETERMINE ACTING ROLES
In the past, students would prepare for a role by trying to memorize some lines or by simply reading from the play with inflection. This is often an unreliable way to predict a student’s performance as a character. So this year, I prepared made-up scenarios for students to role-play. Various scenarios were printed out, cut apart and placed in a basket for students to pick from, such as: You just got home and discovered that your little sister completely messed up your room while you were at school, and now you’re in trouble and YOU have to clean up your room before you can go out to play. OR, Your best friend let loose the news that you have a crush on someone.
There was only one stipulation in the exercise: the role-plays had to be convincing. Not surprisingly, we saw a range of reactions from each scenario. The exercise was voluntary, but eventually, even as shy students watched their classmates, they too wanted to give it a try. It was a lot of fun and a great way to practice “acting”!
Next, students signed up for their top three character choices in the play. They practiced monologues of each of these characters and were able to demonstrate their acting abilities. Once auditions were finished and roles were assigned, students received their scripts to take home over winter break. When everyone returned in January, teamwork was in action.
Rehearsals involved working on one scene at a time, often in small groups, to develop and hone the students’ characters. Students enjoyed getting to see their friends rehearse their scenes and provided positive feedback or ideas to help develop the scene. In music class, Mr. Sherick guided students with music for the play.
FROM RESEARCH TO SET-MAKING
In art class, Mrs. Cooper organized and rotated students in groups to work on props and the set backdrop. Since the play backdrop featured constellations, students researched Greek mythological characters and their constellations, and traced and painted them on the backdrop. More tech savvy students worked on designing the program and creating it on the computer.
From October through to the final dress rehearsal, Mrs. Struck and I designed, created costumes, and also recycled current costuming. There is always a need to have something newer and fresher, and we have learned to become very creative with improvising.
By late February, the stage, the sound system, mics and lights were all in place. Then began the process of “blocking” where we worked out entrances and exits, placement of props, who will be responsible for the props, and figuring out where the play needed better flow. We brainstormed ideas and even new dialogue where necessary. Students with natural “stage manager” abilities initiated guidelines to help smooth out behind-the-scenes disorganization. After each complete run-through of the play, we gathered as a group to evaluate what worked well and what didn’t. We took time to make sure everyone was acknowledged for what they did well.
And then . . . the magic happens, and the characters come to life before an enthused audience. The energy is high, but the students are confident in their abilities because of all the hard work put into rehearsing.
The whole process of preparing for the play develops a multitude of skills and enrichment for the students. Their creativity flows, their input is valued, their responsibility for their part of the play becomes heightened, and they become more mindful of how they communicate with others. They work as a team in a non athletic way, problem-solve, and design a performance around a script. They develop a character, and figure out effective character interaction with other characters in the play. The students get to know each other in completely different ways, and develop new, better or strengthened friendships through the process. But most of all, they get to have fun.