At the height of election season, students in Kent Innovation High’s Civics and American Studies classes presented political campaigns to educators, politicians, and peers, who voted for the team to compete with parties from other New Tech Network schools. Teams wrote stump speeches and produced a brief video ad presenting values important to them. A common theme among parties: the demand to increase educational support.
Dubbed #myparty2014, the project is a continuation of #myparty2012 started by Innovation High American Studies teacher Mike Kaechele to encourage political discourse among students. “I want them to be critical thinkers. We teach rhetorical technique and dig deeper into political messages,” said Kaechele.
Kaechele said the buzz about the competition has been great thus far and hopes to take the project beyond New Tech Network schools for the 2016 election.
“The project helps students find relevance in politics and which issues they care about,” said Jeff Bush, Innovation High teacher. His civics and economics students also participated in the competition.
New Tech Network’s Online Community Manager Theresa Shafer said the project-based learning employed at Innovation High and other New Tech Network schools helps prepare the students for the future. “Getting students involved with real world issues is a great way to engage students,” said Shafer.
Real Issues, Real Feedback
From humor to emotional appeal, students used common political tactics to attract their audience. Major themes include increased funding for educational organizations and lower costs for higher education, as well as gun control, minimum wage, and equal rights.
After the presentation, several guest politicians provided feedback to the students based on their professional experience. State Senator Dave Hildenbrand complemented the use of humor to reach the audience and said it was clear that the students interests would have a positive impact. “It’s refreshing how passionate and serious you are about things important to you,” said Hildenbrand.
State Senate candidate Deb Havens said that although humor can appeal to many, the political environment is a serious one. “Don’t let humor diffuse the power of your message,” she said, adding that she was impressed with the intelligence, wit, compassion and the sense of a broader vision that accompanied the campaigns.
U.S. District Attorney Patrick Miles, Jr. also came forward with campaign advice, that could also be applied to navigating careers and business relations. Miles explained that energy is useful in campaigning but instead of telling people what to do and what to believe, give them a real reason to make a decision and let them come to the conclusion on their own. “Do the research, get the information and produce a solution. People don’t like being told ‘how the world works.'”
Primary Winners, The Free Party
Out of the top ten Innovation High party presentations, The Free Party, consisting of Mackenzie Hutchings from Northview High School, Quinne Boersma from Forest Hills Northern, and Colin Verwys from Lowell High School prevailed. Their slogan would resound with most: “We will protect your education. We will protect your rights. We will protect your equality.”
The Free Party went on to earn second place behind The Liberal Democrats from New Tech @ Meridian High School. In the regional competition, each participating school got an “electoral college” vote where they had to vote for a schools party other than their own.
Colin, who showed an ample amount of charisma while reciting the stump speech, said, “It wasn’t as difficult to write the speech as I thought.” He said it felt good to dress up and that he was excited to participate in the political process once he reaches voting age.
Quinne said it was difficult to find the best language to appeal to her audience when creating the platform. “We originally wanted to discuss the issue of net neutrality, but decided to cover something more personal,” she said.
Quinne said she enjoys the project-based learning at KIH adding, “Innovation High has great opportunities to learn and grow.”