U.S. History teacher leads inspiring voting lesson

Madison Duong, Public Relations Manager

During distance learning, AP U.S. History teacher Kristin Cowles led her students through a lesson on voting using Vote by Design, a project developed by Stanford’s Hasso Plattner Institute of Design. This non-partisan project encourages students to be deliberate voters and become more aware of the qualities and aspects they want in a future president. In the lesson, students would watch clips from the 2016 Republican and 2020 Democratic primary debates to see how those candidates emphasized their expertise and abilities in appealing to voters.

“Students came up with their top three qualities for an ideal president in small groups and had to consider how those qualities would have helped them handle a national crisis,” said Cowles. 

The juniors also studied what values and experiences a politician should bring to the table when running for an election.

“I think this lesson made some students uncomfortable though because politics can turn into heated debates, and some people may not have confidence or are comfortable in sharing their thoughts,” said junior Melanie Falkowski.

This lesson sparked an educated and productive political discussion among Cowles’ students. 

“It was an amazing experience, and I hope we have another opportunity to do this again. This lesson should be given to all students because it’s great practice for when you are given the legal opportunity to vote,” said junior Ariana Mahroum.

Because many students have access to the internet at their fingertips, it isn’t rare to see the occasional story or post that encourages others to learn more about political issues that currently plague our world.

“Students are becoming more educated on political issues because it is more common to post on social media about important issues, and many have engaged in protests this year. With this, students are surrounded with political issues and are given the opportunity to educate themselves,” said Falkowski.

The topic of voting and becoming more educated about politics is especially crucial nowadays. So far, 2020 has seen two events that have shaped the landscape of the 2020 presidential election: COVID-19 and the Black Lives Matter movement following George Floyd’s death. Due to recent events, this might be a more progressive generation.

“The youth of today is more aware of what is going on in this country and wants to be part of the change, whether it’s toward the left or the right. As I got older, I found that I have very different political views than what [my parents] have,” said Mahroum.

Not only does Vote by Design inspire students to become more politically active and remind them that they have a voice in their community, but it also promotes thinking strategies that are well-suited for distance learning and the future.

“It emphasizes the skills and process I want to have in my online class listening, thinking critically, and respectful discussion,” said Cowles. “It’s a presidential election year, and even though my trimester one students will not be old enough to vote, being aware and thoughtful about the process is a good thing!”

For more information about the Vote by Design program, please visit votebydesign.org.