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VIDEO: Teacher at Booker School in Port Williams entrusts students with her federal election vote

Temma Frecker, right, who teaches a Grade 5 and 6 class at The Booker School in Port Williams, decided to give her students her vote for the upcoming federal election. Along with their classmates, Jacob Townsend, left, Forest Lussing and Mason Testroete are taking the responsibility very seriously.
Temma Frecker, right, who teaches a Grade 5 and 6 class at The Booker School in Port Williams, decided to give her students her vote for the upcoming federal election. Along with their classmates, Jacob Townsend, left, Forest Lussing and Mason Testroete are taking the responsibility very seriously. - Kirk Starratt

Students conducting job interviews with candidates to help make decision

PORT WILLIAMS, N.S. —

Their teacher gave them her vote and they soon discovered that deciding what to do with it is not an easy task.

Temma Frecker teaches a Grade 5 and 6 split class at The Booker School in Port Williams. They’re studying government organization with a focus on the federal election. Although it will be several years before the students are old enough to cast ballots, Frecker decided to entrust them with her vote.

The students are researching the various political parties, leaders and Kings-Hants candidates. Four candidates visited the school to be interviewed by the six-student class. They include Liberal candidate Kody Blois, Conservative candidate Martha MacQuarrie, Green Party candidate Brogan Anderson and NDP candidate Stephen Schneider.

Grade 5 students Jacob Townsend of Coldbrook and Forest Lussing of New Minas and Grade 6 student Mason Testroete of Canning shared their thoughts on the project. The students agreed that they’ve learned a lot through the process and that the unit would be something that they reflect on once they are old enough to vote.

Townsend said he learned a lot about what the various parties and candidates plan to do about the climate crisis, for example. Sometimes he was surprised by what the candidates had to say about the various issues and sometimes they said what he expected to hear.

Townsend said that after making posters for the Liberals this past weekend, he used an online tool called Vote Compass to find out how his views align with the various parties and candidates. He found that his views are more in line with the NDP. The candidate interviews also helped inform him.

“I was going to vote for NDP originally but then I swayed to Liberal, but then I did the Vote Compass and I swung back to NDP,” Townsend said. “It’s been back and forth.”

Townsend said he thought it was “amazing” that the candidates took the time to visit and participate in the class project. He appreciated the opportunity because the candidates are busy and not everybody gets an audience with them.

Grade 5 student Forest Lussing of New Minas said they learned a lot about the various parties and what they stand for. He thinks that he would vote Green because they care a lot about the environment. However, that’s not the party’s only platform plank.

“One of the mistakes a lot of people sometimes make with the Green Party, I think, is that they think the Green Party only care about the environment, which is not true. They also care about other stuff,” Lussing said.

Grade 6 student Mason Testroete said he learned a lot about how the electoral system works and how things could change depending on the outcome of the election.

To help make up his mind who would be best to vote for, he asked the candidates about natural gas fracking in Nova Scotia. Testroete said every party had something different to say about it, ranging from support to serious concern.

He agreed that there is a lot to think about when deciding who to vote for. When asked how adults who are undecided should make up their minds, Testroete offered up some suggestions.

“If they have any children, maybe they could let them decide the vote if they want to,” he said. “Or maybe they can just go for what they think is right.”

GETTING INFORMED

Frecker said there were a lot of misconceptions among the students when they began the unit, including that we elect the Prime Minister directly and that all the power resides in that office. When it comes to the issues, the main one the students were already aware of was the climate crisis. They participated in two climate strike events in September.

Frecker told her students how important her vote is to her. It seemed the turning point for engagement was when she told them she would be entrusting them with her vote. She is most impressed with how they are approaching each candidate and party platform with an open mind.

“We’ve come on a pretty great journey over the past three or four weeks because they have become so knowledgeable about this, and I would say even more knowledgeable than many adults,” Frecker said.

The students will hold a vote at the school for those in Grade 2 and up and use a preferential vote or ranked ballot for the class to determine who their teacher should vote for.

Frecker said that as the students conducted research and discovered the various party policies, they noticed different themes and have been asking very specific questions to the candidates. They now feel very connected to the issues and to what the candidates are saying.

Frecker said the students are treating the visits from candidates like job interviews. They brainstormed a list of qualities and skills they would like to see in their elected official and even came up with a job description.

Kirk.starratt@kingscountynews.ca

DID YOU KNOW?

The Grade 5 and 6 class “hiring committee” at The Booker School came up with the following description for the “job posting” Member of Parliament for Kings Hants:

  • The ideal candidate must be honest and not make promises they can’t keep.
  • They should care about the environment.
  • They should be able to listen with an open mind.
  • They should be knowledgeable about the issues important to people in our riding.
  • They should have good public speaking skills.
  • The ideal candidate should be positive and kind.

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