Students at Dodge City Middle School participated in a mock presidential election Tuesday as the rest of the nation went to the polls to choose leadership for the next four years.
Social studies classes at the 6th, 7th and 8th grade levels learned about the candidates through online materials, campaign materials, television coverage and advertising.
Halie Slattery, an 8th grader and a member of the student council, said "I made my decision based on who can improve our economy and how they'll handle taxes. Plus what I learned in social studies and on TV. It's a hard decision."
The student council organized the election with the help of faculty sponsors.
"We had to get the ballots made, check IDs, mark down the names of those voting and hand out stickers," Slattery said.
Voting took place in the school's auditorium using voting booths and ballot boxed donated to the school when Ford County election officials purchased new equipment.
Each class was assigned a voting time throughout the day.
Students were only allowed to vote if they had proper ID.
"We had a lot of students who've lost their school ID," said Terry Lee, teacher at the school. "They learned a hard lesson — they really wanted to vote, but they couldn't."
Once the social studies curriculum about the election was complete, each student was assigned the task of writing an editorial."We asked them to support their candidate and try to get others to do the same," Lee said.
Lee was surprised that the editorials seemed to be evenly divided in their support of the candidates.
"For many of these students, immigration is a big issue and they were surprised to find that some of their preconceived opinions about the candidates' positions were not accurate," Lee said.
The students found similar surprises when they investigated the candidates' stances on another issue important to many of them: abortion.
"At this age, the tendency is to go with what their friends think or vote for the candidate with the most charisma — we try to teach them to think for themselves and look past the superficial things," Lee said.
Students were also surprised by another component of the process: the electoral college.
"When we looked at that, lots of them said 'Well, my vote really doesn't count then,' so we talked about that at length," Lee said.
Lee and other teachers used the Bush/Gore race in 2000 to demonstrate how fewer than 600 voters in a single county in Florida decided the race.
"I also told them that I knew of two times then the local city commission race was decided by a coin toss," Lee said.