Walker Gamble Elementary School kicked off its first “project based” learning program last week with the help of State Sen. Kevin Johnson, who introduced to students the importance of voting.
Third-, fourth- and fifth-grade students put their questions to Johnson after he elaborated on past experiences, such as serving on the school board, with city council and his job as mayor. Johnson also elaborated upon the political process in voting; the importance of a high school education; the decline of teachers voting in Clarendon County; voting as a civic duty; and the need for people to exercise their right to vote.
Although there are a number of years before elementary-aged students qualify to vote, this program focuses on life-long lessons and the development of skills which begin at this level and enables students to work collaboratively.
As the U.S. presidential election fast approaches, Principal Allen Kirby and Assistant Principal Nancy Moore have seized the opportunity to give their students hands-on experiences with voting, demographics and how the political process works.
As this is Moore’s first year as assistant principal at Walker Gamble Elementary School, she explained that she wanted to do something that “makes a difference.”
“This is Walker Gamble’s first project-based learning experience and the project is based on making a difference in schools and its communities, states and societies," said Moore. "The main focus is the profile of the South Carolina graduate through project based learning. The program works by using real world issues as hands-on learning experiences for students of all ages."
Third-grade students will learn about the voting and registration process. Clarendon County Voter Registration and Elections Director Shirley Black-Oliver is the guest speaker for this level.
Students will look into what a voter registration application has on it and the process of preparing to vote. The students’ big project is to create their own voter registration which gives them first-hand experiences with the consequences of people not exercising their right to vote.
They will look at statistics based on the last local election and its trends and data, because project-based learning concentrates on statistics.
Fourth-graders will research trends such as how they are able to make a difference in their community and “why people don’t vote,” Moore said. At this level, students will explore how to create their own bill to debate. Rep. Robert Ridgeway will be the guest speaker for fourth-graders to speak about how a bill is written.
Fifth-graders’ projects will be to go through the political process by starting up a primary and to narrow it down. There will be two parties that will go out and solicit and campaign for themselves. The root of this is to help students to understand that voting is a constitutional right that we exercise. This project will plant that seed now so that they will understand the process at the elementary level, which will have an impact on them when they reach the age of 18.
Moore said that this first event was their entry event. Between now and election day on Nov. 8, all these projects will happen so students will have a first-hand experience at being involved with the voting process. She said that for a lot of these elementary aged children, this is their first experience with voting and elections and faculty and students are excited to be a part of it.
Students and faculty members demonstrated eagerness as they participated in the event by asking the senator questions about himself and his experiences, as well as the upcoming election and the importance of the voting process. The event concluded with the presentation of a gift on behalf of the school and was presented by the principal and assistant principal.