PRATT — While their parents were voting for presidential and community leadership positions, first-grade students at Southwest Elementary School in Pratt were making their own difficult and perhaps controversial choice at school.
Under the direction of their teacher, Marcus Collick, USD 382 first-graders learned about voting as they made the choice between chicken nuggets or french fries.
With the nation focused on choices Tuesday, several Pratt teachers seized the moment in history to help their students understand why voting matters and why their opinions are important, whether they were 7-year-olds in first grade or 18 and enrolled in Kyle Farmer’s high school government class.
Collick said he explained to his first-graders that at a certain age, everyone gets to vote on issues that affect Americans. He gave each child a ballot and asked them to decide if chicken nuggets or french fries were the superior food, all the while telling them that they didn’t have to tell anyone which way they voted. Then, everyone got to make their own "I Voted" buttons to show that they did their civic duty. When the votes were tallied, class majority favored french fries over chicken nuggets.
"I chose to do this activity to give my students first-hand experience of what it is like to have their voice heard even in a silly election for what food is better," Collick said. "This is important because one day they will have to make a choice for what they feel is a better decision. Whether that be for the next president, the next judge, or even the college they choose to attend. I wanted students to understand that this process of choosing is not an easy task, but a very important one. Not only this, but it also is a great privilege that we should not take for granted."
At Pratt High School during election week, Farmer’s dual-government class learned how to fill in their own electoral college maps, and made predictions as to how the real election might play out.
"As a student who did one of those maps, I can say I would have much rather been trying to decide if I like chicken nuggets or fries better than deciding who would win Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Georgia or Nevada," said student Ruby Howell.
The high school class also covered the primary/caucus process, the electoral college, and campaign finance so as to fully understand how a president gets elected, from actually securing votes, to super PACs and the establishment.
"My overall goal was to help students understand the importance of elections and how elections have impacted our nation," Farmer said. "I hope they learned that anyone can change something that they believe in."
Farmer led by example, as he filed for a position on the Pratt City Commission and won that seat during the 2020 election.