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Bath, ME (November 16, 2020) –Fisher Mitchell School (FMS) students had their own taste of political process earlier this month; their election to determine the “Best Thing About Maine” wrapped up on November 2.
Meg Barker, in her fourth year as the librarian at FMS, first organized a mock election for students during the 2018 midterm elections in Maine, which included the race for governor. She decided that it was important to hold another mock election this year despite challenges posed by COVID-19.
“Any time there is an election in ‘the real world,’ I think it’s important that school kids experience it, too. Not just to learn the mechanics of voting, but to explore the underlying questions: how do you persuade someone to your way of thinking, for example?” said Barker.
The school started the mock election in mid-October with a pool of 16 “candidates” competing to be the “Best Thing About Maine,” a theme suggested by 5th grade teacher Ashley Hoskins. Barker used a bracket system to pit different aspects of Maine against one another, like: “What is the best place? Mt. Katahdin or Acadia National Park?” or “What is the best book? Charlotte’s Web or Blueberries for Sal?” After several rounds of voting the school was down to two competitors: Maine’s state bird – the chickadee – and retail icon L. L. Bean.
Most of the voting took place online through Brightspace, RSU 1’s online learning management platform. With voting methods varying so much this year in the “real world” it only made sense for similar changes to be made at FMS. While online voting in the preliminary rounds was good for keeping germs at bay, Barker wanted students to submit a paper ballot in the final vote, in person, to see and experience the process together.
During the last week of October, students gathered by cohort into the Fisher Mitchell School gymnasium as Principal Ross Berkowitz reminded them of the two “Best in Maine” candidates. He asked students to share why they were voting for one or the other.
“I’m voting for the chickadee because I love nature,” shared one.
“My mom works at L. L. Bean and I think it’s a great place,” shared another.
Each student was given a paper ballot, and Principal Berkowitz rolled a mobile ballot box around the gym so that each student could place their vote. The winner was announced on Monday, November 2: it was a close race, but the chickadee emerged victorious.
“I’m glad we were able to hold several rounds of voting, some electronic and the last in person,” said Berkowitz. “The kids smiled and enjoyed getting their ‘I Voted’ sticker, so I believe the event was a success.”Photo “Mock election2”: Principal Berkowitz invites students to the ballot box one at a time to place their final vote.