Canada at the Polls!
3. Choosing an Outing: A Simple Scenario for Young Children
Choosing a Person or an Activity?
This section is intended for primary Grades 5 and up, and for community groups. For children in Grades 1 through 4, we recommend another Elections Canada kit, Choosing Our Mascot .
In an election simulation, students in Grades 5 and up can, of course, elect a representative. If you hold this type of election, tell the students about a "problem" for which the class must select someone to perform a role – for example, meeting the school principal to propose a project. To motivate the students, the "problem" must be something of interest to them. You can also ask them to vote for their favourite sports or entertainment star (hockey player, actor, etc.).
You can also hold an election in which the students select a group activity. This is the scenario described below. In this case, students vote for an activity rather than a candidate. The advantage of this type of exercise is that it involves several disciplines at the same time and can be educationally rewarding. The scenario described can be completed in one or two 60-minute periods.
Tell the students that they will vote to choose a group outing. The participants are divided into groups to discuss the proposed outings, which could include:
- a trip to a sugar bush
- a trip to the historic site of Sainte-Marie among the Hurons
- a trip to the naval facilities in Penetanguishene
Each group draws a picture or cartoon showing why its choice would be best. A spokesperson for each group then speaks to the class, before they vote to select the outing. In this scenario, the class will have learned something about the electoral process, as well as several other subjects, including art, English, history, English–French relations and Aboriginal studies.
The students then hold a simplified election, with a poll clerk and deputy returning officer, and use real ballots on which the outings replace the names of candidates. Otherwise, the voting procedure is the same as described in Section 4, Let's Hold an Election .
The teacher or facilitator plays the role of the returning officer and announces the outing selected by the majority. You can make up a certificate showing the chosen destination and post it in the room. If you have the time and resources, you can, of course, actually go there. And naturally, the results of an election call for a celebration. In a democracy, everyone is a winner!
Concepts to be Conveyed
Before voting, help young people discover the basic principles of elections. Here are a few questions to get the discussion going, either at the outset or during the activity.
What is an election?
It is a process in which a group selects someone to represent it or makes choices about issues that are important to the group.
What does voting mean?
Voting means choosing.
Who has the right to vote in Canada?
People who are Canadian citizens, and are 18 years of age or older on election day. In addition, the names of these people must be on the voters list before they can exercise their right to vote. You can tell groups of older students that the first condition (Canadian citizenship) is stipulated in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms . People are encouraged to register to vote in advance; however, a qualified voter may register at the polls on election day by presenting proof of identity and residence in that electoral district.
What is a candidate?
A person who is running for office. In other words, a person who seeks to be elected to represent a group of people.
Who can be a candidate?
Every Canadian citizen aged 18 or older can be a candidate, if he has gathered the signatures of at least 100 electors in the riding where he is running (or 50 signatures for some of the larger or remote ridings), and has paid a deposit of $1,000 to show that he is serious about his candidacy. A candidate does not have to live in the riding where he is running for office, and does not have to belong to any political party.
Why do I vote in secret?
Because my vote is my personal choice. I have the right to make this choice by myself, without anyone's influence and without having to tell my friends. You could tell the students that in the old days people had to stand up in front of a big crowd and tell everyone there whom they were voting for. Most students can relate to the fear of talking in front of a big group. Ask them what effect this might have on the vote.
How is my vote kept secret?
Small, identical pieces of paper, called ballots, are used. By folding the ballot, you hide the mark you make in the circle, and then place the ballot in the ballot box yourself. The voting screen lets you vote in private. All the ballots are placed in the same sealed ballot box and mixed together. No ballot can be set aside, so no one can say who voted for whom.
Integrating What Has Been Learned
The objective of this crucial phase in the learning process is to consolidate the newly acquired knowledge and, in our case, to move toward a greater appreciation of the right to vote among young people learning about democracy. Here are a few suggestions to promote the integration of the new information:
- discussion between the students and the teacher/leader on what has been learned
- discussion among the students on the value of these lessons in their lives
- review of the electoral process (or study of the process, if not done during the preparatory stage)
- discussion among the students about their respective roles (candidate, deputy returning officer, elector, etc.) and the importance of those roles in the electoral process
- debate on the importance of the secrecy of the vote and the precautions that have to be taken to ensure secrecy
- discussion of the way the voters who played special roles were treated at the polling station