On Election Day, San Diego Students Learn Importance of Voting, Differences
At the Nierman Preschool in La Jolla, the minimum voting age is just 18 months old. As Americans across the country cast their votes, children at this preschool will have the opportunity to vote in their own election: They’ll decide whether the following day will be Pajama Day or Superhero Day.
It may sound like a silly lesson plan for a nation confronted with a deadly virus and civil unrest this presidential election season — but educators say children will learn valuable information.
"We're building a curriculum where children will learn they have the right to their own idea and their own opinions," said Fran Forman, the senior director of early education and programs at the Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center, the home of Nierman Preschool. “We want them to know that no matter what their opinions or beliefs are, their vote matters and their vote will affect change.”
Forman, who has been an educator for 40 years, recognizes that the program may hold a different significance than in years past.
“We are much more polarized than we have ever been,” Forman said. “I would love to teach our children the idea that — while we may not all be on the same page all the time — we can share opinions in a non-threatening way.”
At High Tech Explorer Elementary in Liberty Station, there’s a different focus on the Election Day lessons. Fifth-grade teacher Rebecca Frost said students are learning about voter suppression and how to ensure their voice is heard.
The teacher, along with four other educators, launched the “My Voice, My Vote” project, which included lessons on the history of voting, virtual visits from elected officials such as Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher and Todd Gloria, and the creation of posters and social media posts that encouraged the public to vote.
“Part of our strategy is to have our students learn the history of voting so they are truly aware of what voting means,” said Frost, who has been teaching for 23 years. “They need to understand the struggle that various groups have gone through to secure this right. Once they see what happened in Selma, what happened with Mexican voters in Arizona, and understand voter suppression today, they can appreciate how important voting is.”
She said she wants her students to know “their voice matters” as voter suppression still exists.
“By teaching our students about their rights as voters, we hope they can help inform the adults in their lives, and grow up to be voters who will demand their rights,” Frost said. “People need to be informed about how to get their votes counted, and to not be dissuaded from voting.”
Back at the Nierman Preschool, Forman said they’ll prepare to share the results of their Pajama Day vs. Superhero Day election at the end of the day. She said they’ll be mindful of the children who may be disappointed with the outcome.
“We’ll make sure we are sensitive to whoever loses the election,” she said. “We’ll make sure to teach our children we can all celebrate richness and differences in ideas and opinions.”