Jane Nussbaum is the executive editor of Junior Scholastic, a middle school magazine for social studies and ELA. Here, she shares ideas to help kids get involved in the 2020 U.S. presidential election.
According to findings from the Scholastic Teacher & Principal School Report: 2nd Edition, 92% of teachers agree that teaching students about the U.S. presidential election is an important way to help them become engaged and informed citizens.
With the 2020 election around the corner, in a year that has been unlike any other, we have a vital opportunity to engage students of all ages in our country’s democratic process, helping them understand how this process works—and empowering them to play a role in it by using their voices and exercising their rights. Here are some ideas to get started:
Building Young People’s Knowledge
To help support students in grades 3–12 and their educators in learning and teaching about the 2020 U.S. presidential election, the Scholastic Classroom Magazines team has launched a new free Election 2020 website.There you’ll find articles and videos about the democratic process, civics quizzes, and activities, as well as deeply reported and rigorously fact-checked candidate profiles and overviews of issues that are at the center of this year’s election—including the pandemic response, racial justice, the economy, health care, climate change, education, immigration, and national security.
We know that kids are paying attention to what’s going on around them and that they have a lot of questions. We hope this website will provide them with the information they need to become passionate advocates for the kind of world they want to live in.
Helping Kids Get Involved
In my role as executive editor of Junior Scholastic, I often hear from students who want to know how they can get involved in elections, even if they aren’t yet able to vote. Here are six ideas that educators, parents, and caregivers can share with kids across age groups to help them make an impact in the weeks leading up to the election in November:
- Get informed by learning about what will be decided on Election Day and who the candidates are in national and local elections. Sites such as Ballotpedia.org, Vote411.org, ProCon.org, and VoteSmart.org are great nonpartisan resources for older students.
- Make sure your adult friends and family members vote by asking them about their plans for Election Day. If they’re not registered to vote, encourage them to apply at Vote.gov. Then make sure they know where and how to cast ballots. They can find their local polling places at Vote411.org, or visit USA.gov/election-office to learn about vote-by-mail options in their state. Finally, as Election Day draws near, remind your loved ones to vote!
- Write to an elected official or your local or school paper about a cause that matters to you. You can email an elected official to try to effect change, pen an editorial for your school newspaper or blog, or submit a letter to the editor of a local paper. Be sure to include information from trustworthy sources about the cause, why it matters, and how change can be made.
- Volunteer. Visit a candidate’s website to explore safe and age-appropriate ways to pitch in. For example, campaigns need help contacting potential voters, often through phone calls, letters, and texts. Identifying supporters now makes it easier for candidates to remind those people to vote on Election Day. Plus, you’ll get an inside look at the campaign process.
- Champion a cause by choosing an issue you’re passionate about and identifying an organization that is addressing the problem in a way you agree with. Find out how kids can help—such as by organizing a fundraiser or writing letters to news outlets. Check out opportunities and ideas at PointsofLight.org, YVC.org, and DoSomething.org.
- Keep the election on people’s minds by making election signs for your front yard or window, or sport a T-shirt promoting your presidential pick. You can also make and share videos about why voting is important and why the election matters. Seeing your excitement about the election can inspire others to take part.
Teaching the Power of Voting
Through the Election 2020 site, students can get in the habit of exercising their rights by voting in the Scholastic Student Vote, a virtual mock election where young people across the country can cast their ballots for president of the United States online.
This mock election has been a Scholastic tradition since 1940—and since that time, the outcome of the Scholastic Student Vote has predicted that of every general election except for just three: in 1948, students selected Thomas E. Dewey over Harry S. Truman; in 1960, students chose Richard M. Nixon over John F. Kennedy; and in 2016, students picked Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump.
This year’s results will be announced in October, before the national election on November 3, 2020.
To access the free Scholastic 2020 Election website, visit: www.scholastic.com/election.
To learn more about resources from Scholastic Classroom Magazines, visit: www.scholastic.com/magazines.