This fall, Olders students began an in-depth study of the presidential election process. While learning the history and evolution of how the Executive Branch was established, students are currently running their own simulated campaigns. Using Storypath (an instructional strategy for teaching), the Teaching Tolerance curriculum, as well as additional resources, the Olders Cluster emphasizes civil discourse in their course of study.
Students have taken on the roles of different political parties, developing party platforms as well as campaign roles and strategies, then giving speeches to PS1 students in other Clusters. The campaigns are focused around topics such as climate change, homelessness, equality, and Black Lives Matter. The culmination of this simulation will coincide with the real-life election on November 3rd, when students in different classes will vote for one of the parties and candidates created in the Olders classes. (Each Cluster has also taken part in a study of democracy and the election. More to come...) Olders teachers explain, "Our goal in this simulation is to help students develop a better understanding of the complex election process, while also helping them develop civil discourse and a path to making all voices heard on important issues."
This project reflects the pluralistic values set forth by PS1 and also by the National Association of Independent Schools. In a recent Independent Ideas blog post, NAIS President Donna Orem addresses the roots of political polarization and shares how schools can bridge perceived ideological gaps within their communities.
"In our school communities, we can and must work to facilitate effective dialogue so that we can create healthy cultures for students and adults."
Olders students have been talking in class about the power of civil discourse, how to communicate a clear message to an intended audience, and the meaningful ways people can actively listen to others. Also, students have identified the characteristics of inspiring leaders that they most look up to. They acknowledge that skill and knowledge play a part in doing an effective job but so does passion, integrity, and a moral compass that reflects one's own values. Finally, students have discussed the fact that people can disagree on a topic or set of policies. PS1 teachers encourage students to be open to discourse as a sharing of different perspectives can strengthen an argument and when it does not, we can choose to disagree (and find other ways to seek common ground).