Students at Idylwild spent months studying presidential elections

Published: Sunday, January 18, 2009 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 17, 2009 at 11:54 p.m.

Some of the most eager viewers of Tuesday's presidential inauguration never cast a vote on Nov. 4.

Actually, they won't get to vote for another eight years.

Fifth-graders at Idylwild Elementary School will partake in a school-wide viewing of the inauguration - the culmination of five months spent closely studying the presidential election.

"Students have really become excited," said Dr. Barbara Henry, Idylwild principal.

Armed with materials gleaned from both the McCain and Obama campaigns, faculty gave students a hands-on learning environment.

"So much is tied into (President-elect Barack Obama's) achievement," she said, "especially during Martin Luther King Jr. weekend."

Not only did students learn about the candidates, they formed their own opinions and cast votes in a school-wide mock election.

"One must be politically aware in order to be politically involved," said Henry.

When Obama won the presidential election, Henry said, "students were excited because it reflected how we voted as a school."

But for Library Media Specialist Mary Foti, teaching students about their democratic rights was more personally motivating.

Foti said she was in the fifth grade when she joined her father to distribute flyers in support of then-presidential candidate John F. Kennedy.

The experience, she said, made her feel that she played a significant part in her country's democracy - a feeling she wanted to convey to students.

"I want students to feel enfranchised as members of their democracy," Foti said.

Even Idylwild kindergarten students had a chance to learn about their government.

Henry said Obama's daughters fascinated the younger students, while the older ones studied Lincoln's importance in the historic election.

Members of the community helped Idylwild gear up for Tuesday's Inauguration Day.

One retired Gainesville woman donated coloring books to the school, with interesting facts about President-elect Obama, Henry said.

"She admitted that (Obama) was not her candidate of choice," Henry said. "That's what made it so powerful."

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