Because a democracy is a government led by its people, voting to elect our leaders is a vital responsibility. With November's presidential election just four months away, the campaigns are heating up. Here are some online resources for kids and teens to learn about the American political process and keep up with the candidates.
The BrainPOP movies are a perennial Surfnetkids favorite for elementary and middle-school kids. This one introduces the concepts of democracy, the two-party system, conventions, campaigning, voting and the electoral college. It even presents an overview of the 2000 tie-breaking Florida recount. After the movie, test your knowledge by taking the quiz, and then click on over to the Electoral College movie to learn more.
Created to mobilize twenty million potential voters under the age of the thirty, Choose or Lose is one part education, one part entertainment, and one part promotion. Best educational clicks for high-school students are Voting 101 (Political Conventions, What are Swing States?) and Vote Smart (position papers in printable PDF on topics such as the environment and health care.) Best just-for-fun click is "Their Heads, Your Words" where you can submit a funny caption for the picture of the week.
This PBS site for grades three to six is evergreen because it does not specifically cover the 2004 elections, but rather the process itself. "How Does Government Affect Me?" is the largest of the three sections, with pages of learning on topics as diverse as funding local schools to checks and balances in the three branches of the federal government. "President for a Day" is an interactive exercise where you learn all about the president's duties by creating your own presidential agenda.
Rock the Vote makes "political participation cool" by "incorporating the entertainment community and youth culture into its activities." Educational articles are interspersed with free MP3 downloads, and drawings for tickets to Rock the Vote fund-raising concerts. Learn election basics in Election 101 (you'll find it under Issues in the main horizontal menu.) Get answers to your voter registration questions in Voting FAQ (look for it under Action.)
Scholastic: Election 2004 is my pick-of- the-day for grades three through eight. The audio site tour by Scholastic reporters Alana and Daniel introduces each of the five site sections, and is a great way to begin. My favorite clicks are Meet the Candidates (in Countdown to Election Day), History of our Elections (link on the homepage) and all the Activities. Activities include interactive and printable quizzes, an online scavenger hunt, a poll, and a terrific "If You Were President" game. Look for them in each of the sections.