By Tim Leeds
You're never too young to learn about the U.S. political process.
That's what seventh-graders at the Havre Middle School have been doing for the last two weeks. After researching the presidential candidates, they presented campaigns to a sixth-grade class, which then voted on the candidates.
Avis Chenoweth, who is student teaching in Sandi Evenson's seventh-grade English class, had the students research U.S. presidential hopefuls. The students split into five groups, each covering one of the main candidates.
The students researched the candidates in the school library using the internet, magazines and newspapers. The students had to be non-biased and find at least 25 facts about the candidates.
After each group presented their research to the rest of the class, the class voted on the candidates. Democratic candidate Al Gore, Republican candidate George Bush, and Republican candidate Alan Keyes received the most votes.
The students then split into three groups and did additional research on those candidates. The research was more specific, on topics such as education, foreign policy, gun control, drugs and school vouchers. The students had to use different sources than in the first stage of research, then had to process the information.
Monday the campaigns presented their information to the sixth-graders in Sally Porter's Spanish class, who then voted on the candidates. In the final vote, Gore received 10 votes, Bush received 8 and Keyes received five.
Patch Wirtzberger, on the Bush campaign, said the campaign process has been fun.
"It's been crazy, but it's been fun,"he said.
Tyson Parman said he likes what Bush represents and his views on schools and teen violence. He said he learned a lot about politics from the unit.
"Like the voting process and what campaign managers have to go through for the president," he said.
Clarissa Sanchez said she supports Keyes.
"It's cool that somebody other than white is going to be president," she said.
Brandi Rhoads said she likes Keyes views on preventing violence in the schools.
Zach Musson said Keyes has some good views on some of the issues.
Joe Shelton said he has changed his opinion of Keyes now that he has researched him.
"I like some of his views," he said. "Now that I've seen some of his views I disagree (with some of them). I'm more for Gore now."
Jeremy Sapp said he thinks Gore will be the best president. He said he likes that Gore is in different kinds of groups, and that he thinks Gore is honest.
Ashley Doll said she likes the fact that Gore was already vice president and has experience.
Sharon Sherman said she likes Gore.
"I think he's honest and he doesn't mudsling," she said. She said she likes his views on many issues.
The students said they also learned a lot about the campaign process. Shelton said there's a lot of mudslinging and dirty campaigning. He said people try to dig things up from the past, and affiliate candidates with things their friends and relatives did.
Doll said campaigning was a lot of work.
"It was hard. People arguing about campaign managers; it took a long time to decide."
Porter said she liked having her class listen to the seventh-graders.
"This is something a little different," she said. "Sixth-graders aren't usually in this area."
Chenoweth said some of the seventh graders really got into the research and campaigning.
"Hopefully, it will help them understand the political process and get them excited," she said, "and make them realize every vote counts."