Election process captivates students at Viera High


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Viera High sophomore Richard McCombs votes in the Fortuna Primary during elections held by The Academy for Communication, Art + Design.

photo courtesy of Aaron lampkin

As the Democrats and Republicans continue to wage their battle into the November elections, students in The Academy for Communication, Art + Design at Viera High recently got their own up close and personal look at the political process.

Rather than having candidates deliver a 30-second speech in front of a bus before a field trip as in years past, this time, the academy elections featured debates, online polls, primaries, delegates and even different voting systems.

“As an academy, we want to do as much cross-curricular stuff as we can,” said Mark Cole, a Digital Media teacher at the school. “It just so happens that we’ve got elections happening and that seemed to be one that was something we could latch onto and do something kind of fun.”

The system, which used the concept of gamification, engaged students to immerse themselves in the election process and was designed by Visual Design teacher David Peregrina and history teacher Keith Vincent. 

Students were asked to go off a story where Mars has been colonized. There are seven colonies and at the beginning of the year, freshmen coming into the academy were put into a different colony. Once that was done, they came up with two different political parties — the Unionists and the Reformists —– complete with their own logos. Students had to register for their party affiliation.

A website was created for the election process. Candidates could post their platforms, students could watch the debates and online polls could be conducted.

Unsurprisingly, those polls proved to be influential in each candidate’s electoral strategy.

“As they were targeting specific groups throughout their campaigns, it was really mimicking how politicians target voting blocks in real life,” Vincent said. 

After using the popular vote to decide the primaries, the rest of the election was done by using the single transferable voting system used in places like Australia.

“It’s really useful when you’re trying to elect more than one person in an election,” Vincent said. “The students had to rank their choices. So if their first vote didn’t get in, their vote counts for their second choice.”

Four winners were eventually chosen, along with four members of the Ambassadorial Senate, which has a representative from each class. The House of Representatives is made up of seniors from each colony.

“I definitely learned a lot more about the primaries and I definitely think it educated us much more about the whole political system so when we do become of age, [we’ll understand] how to vote,” Viera sophomore Sierra Connor said.

Student dedication to the process — from watching the debates to reading the students’ platforms and other information — impressed the teaching staff.

“When you look at this and go, ‘This is all the reading they had to do?’ Most students would go, ‘I’m not going to read that,’” Pergrina said. “But to watch students read through it — and it’s written by students, which is incredible.

“I think that really solidified for me that engagement is the key to education.”