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Canada at the Polls!

1. Introduction

How To Use This Kit

Canada at the Polls! is designed for a variety of users. It is intended for teachers of Grade 5 to the last year of high school and for the leaders of community groups, such as Scouts and cadets. It will help those wishing to hold election simulations for educational purposes and those who conduct student council elections.

This kit is, above all, intended to be flexible and versatile. The first two sections (Introduction and The ABCs of Elections ) provide general information for all users. The rest of the kit consists of independent sections. Simply use the sections you need and the supporting materials in the Appendix.

While the material is intended primarily for schools, much of it can be adapted for other settings and can be used as a starting point for simulation activities in community organizations.

Here is a brief overview of the various sections of the kit:

Introduction – Sets out the objectives of the kit and the steps required to derive the maximum educational benefit from the election simulation (especially useful for student teachers)

The ABCs of Elections – Basic information about the electoral process in Canada, for teachers or group leaders

Choosing an Outing: A Simple Scenario for Young Children – An easy-to-use scenario for younger children, who are asked to vote on a group outing

Let’s Hold an Election: An Intermediate Scenario for Everyone – An overview of the electoral process, suitable for groups at all levels

English and Democracy: An Advanced Scenario for Older Students – A scenario for more advanced or older groups, including a campaign segment leading up to an election

Supplementary Activities – Questions and answers game and word games to occupy children during voting

Guide for the School Election Officer – A practical guide for the person responsible for organizing student council elections

Appendix – Various documents and forms related to the content of the kit

Canada at the Polls! is and will remain a co-operative effort. To help us improve the kit, we ask you to fill in the short evaluation questionnaire included in the Appendix and to send it to Elections Canada’s Outreach Directorate at the address shown on the form. Your suggestions for improvement and ideas for supplementary exercises are most welcome.

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Objectives of an Election Simulation

An election simulation is an excellent opportunity to convey knowledge , awareness and know-how to the next generation and thereby contribute to the preservation of basic democratic rights. The figure below illustrates the links among various aspects of Canadian democracy and the key political role a citizen can play in it. The election simulations revolve around this concept. We therefore propose the following objectives:

General objectives

These general objectives are elements of knowledge . Among others, the following concepts shown in the illustration will be defined: democracy, citizens, right to vote , etc.

image of general objectives of an election simulation

Educational objectives

The educational objectives relate to know-how . The young people will learn when and how to exercise their democratic rights.

Training objective

The training objective is an element of awareness , including appreciation, motivation, attitudes, etc. The goal is to engender among these young people the desire to exercise their right to vote and their other civic rights when the time comes.

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The Four Key Phases: Preparation, Implementation, Integration and Evaluation

To ensure that the election simulation achieves the desired educational results, it must be carried out in four phases: preparation, implementation, integration and evaluation. Each is essential to the success of the entire process.

Preparation phase

The preparation phase must include a triggering event and a situation description.

The triggering event must be significant and as relevant as possible to the students’ lives. Accordingly, regardless of the participants’ grade or age, we suggest that the exercise involve actually electing someone to play a specific role for the group. With older students, you may venture into more theoretical terrain, suggesting, for instance, the re-creation of a controversial past election, choosing between two former Prime Ministers, electing a participant to the Parliament of Canada or a fictitious world parliament, etc. We believe, however, that even for young people of this age, there is no substitute for personal or collective interest as a motivator.

After establishing the objective, you must set out a procedure that will ensure a democratic election. This is the time for the situation description. You can ask the young people if they know of any procedure that could be used. They should describe where this procedure is used, when, how the system works, why this is considered democratic, etc. This provides an opportunity to test the extent of participants’ knowledge, to make the necessary adjustments, and ultimately to present the Canadian electoral process and suggest that it be used as a model for solving the problem.

You will then assign roles for each person to play in the next phase. The length of the preparation phase will depend on the depth of training you wish to achieve and the time available. It can easily be completed in a 45- or 60-minute period.

Implementation phase

This phase can take 45, 60 or 75 minutes. It can also be spread out over several periods if the aim is to simulate not just polling day, but most of the steps in a real election campaign as well, including the nomination of candidates and "political" campaigning.

During a 60-minute session, with a group of 30 students, 5 minutes can be set aside for giving directions, 20 minutes for the electoral campaign including 10 minutes for candidates’ speeches, 10 minutes to set up the polling station, 15 minutes for the actual voting (students take an average of 30 seconds to vote), and 10 minutes to tally the results and declare a winner.

Sections 3 and 4 include all the information required to complete this phase.

Integration phase

At this point in the learning process, the students are asked to state what they have learned from the activity. This reflective exchange helps the students internalize their new knowledge and the usefulness of the exercise they have just completed.

This is also the time to ask the students if they think this new knowledge will be useful in real life and ask them to justify their answers. This will lead them to give a meaning to their newly acquired knowledge that will allow them to apply it again when the time comes.

This phase can take different forms, and the total time will range from 10 to 30 minutes depending on the procedure used and the students’ answers.

Evaluation phase

The following exercises can be used to evaluate the extent to which the students have absorbed and integrated the various elements of knowledge, awareness and know-how which are the goals of the election simulation. They can do these exercises alone first for 15 minutes, then in small groups, then with the whole group to reach a consensus. After the election, ask participants to:

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