The unit will teach basic lessons about civics and democracy through the lens of the Presidential election. The goal of the unit is to help students understand the importance of voting and participation while building their knowledge of the election system. The unit will encourage your students to think about government in a new way and connect this remarkable election to their day to day lives.
Teachers are all aware of how hard it is to teach basic civics lessons to students. Civics and democracy matter tremendously, but they can seem very vague and abstract to students. The goal of this unit is to use the Presidential election as a lens to teach basic civic lessons. The presidential election provides one real-world example after another about why elections matter, and this election in particular raises important issues related to citizenship and identify. For instance, the presence of a serious female candidate for President, following on the heels of the election of our first African American President, raises serious questions about who has gained the right to vote over time and the importance of voting. Voting is one of the most important civic duties that one can carry out, yet so many people choose not to vote. Voting is an expression of individuality, opinion, and independence; yet many citizens are opting not to exercise their rights and remain a voice unheard. You might even say that the fierce competition between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton is forcing some to revisit their own ideas of what citizenship and identity means to them.
For some Americans, the thought of having a woman in power is surprising, and maybe even taboo, but others glory in the idea of having a female presence in the White House. At the very least, Hillary Clinton’s campaign is a legacy of the women who gathered together at Seneca Falls over two hundred years ago to exercise their right to be heard, in a world where politicians thought women should be seen and not heard. Education matters enormously for the next generation and its ability to carry out its civic duties. Although the 21st century is ever-changing, the views of the past influence us today. Moreover, children are often heavily influenced by their parents and need to learn to think independently about these issues.
The unit will allow students to form their own political judgments based on their own discovery of the information using a multi-sensory approach. The goal is to challenge their thinking through a variety of articles, videos, and books about the topics they are interested in learning about. The background knowledge that the students acquire through this unit will help them to make their own choices about our leaders, candidates, and the basic rights that everyone possesses.
While I plan to teach this unit in the first marking period, during the Presidential election, the unit will work at any point during the next few years as students process the results of the election. It is primarily a Social Studies and/or civics unit, but it may also be adapted to fit the grade-level the teacher is teaching. History teachers may benefit the most from the unit, but Language Arts teachers may also benefit since there are many opportunities for close reading, analyzing sources, and examining articles and books for citing resources. It can take up to a month to complete the unit, so it is best to begin it late September and continue into October.