As election nears, Paso Robles students promote the vote

Flamson Middle School students, from left, Isa Magnuson, 12, and Devin Hartley, 13, count votes from their mock election along with Ethan Moore, 13 (whose hands are in the foreground).
Flamson Middle School students, from left, Isa Magnuson, 12, and Devin Hartley, 13, count votes from their mock election along with Ethan Moore, 13 (whose hands are in the foreground).

Twelve-year-old Nicholas Rokes, completely absorbed in the task at hand, was quiet as he pondered where to hang a poster that read: “Rock your right to vote.”

“People almost always walk by the choir room,” he exclaimed as his eyes lit up at the idea, and students around him nodded in agreement. The group marked the poster’s destination with a Post-it note.

Nicholas was one of 30 or so students in Celia Moses’ fourth-period history class at Flamson Middle School who on Tuesday continued to work on various projects taking place this month to remind people to vote this election season.

“My students realized that our ancestors fought to have certain freedoms and right, and yet many people are not taking advantage of these rights. One of those rights is voting,” Moses said.

Her history class, made up of three periods and about 90 students in all, has been studying about the Revolutionary War and the beginnings of the Constitution. Moses teaches a dual-immersion class, in both English and Spanish, for the Paso Robles middle school’s seventh- and eighth-grade students.

“Basically, I presented them with a project and said, ‘Solve it,’” Moses said. “And they did everything else.”

After she posed the question, she said the students went into research mode. They formed into smaller groups, assigned roles and mapped out plans. They went on the Internet and turned up facts about American voting trends, listed out amendments to the Constitution and other facts and printed them out on brochures and fliers to pass out at parent-teacher conferences, football games and local businesses. On Tuesday, they were taping pieces of candy to voting reminder cards for their parents to pass out to trick-or-treaters on Halloween.

“We made pamphlets and handed them out at a dentist office so just a bunch of parents and clients that came in took them. It had information about the (election) and how their votes really count,” said Daniella Perez, 13.

Another period changed the lyrics to pop artist Taylor Swift’s new tune "Shake It Off" to make it about voting for a school performance.

Flamson is also participating in the state’s MyVote California Student Mock Election, for which the students were busy counting ballots on Tuesday.

The mock election asked students which real-life candidate for governor they supported, as well as where they stood on the six propositions going before voters next week. The mock election is designed to teach students about the thinking process voters use in making their choices and is also a way for the kids to open up dialogue about the propositions with their parents so that the parents are then prepared to vote as well, Moses said.

“We’ve learned really a lot of things about not just the election, but we’ve learned to really appreciate our rights to do this,” Daniella said of the project. “And it’s actually not an easy thing to do, because you have to put a lot of thought into it when you’re voting. It’s not just a matter of just ‘yes or no.’ You have to really think about your decision.”

Brooke Bigelow, 13, took on a public relations role for the project. “I really like talking with people about this,” she said.

Moses said it’s been rewarding to watch the students emerge as leaders throughout the project, as well as seeing what the different students come up with.

“It’s really rare to see eighth-graders excited about something. And you can see (they’re excited) with this,” she said.”You can see it on their faces.”