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I voted! Elementary students cast ballots for play equipment, learn lessons in democracy

Wyoming — As voters lined up at the polls nationwide for the Nov. 3 election, Oriole Park elementary students were also ready to cast their votes.

On their ballot: What piece of equipment should be added to the playground? They filled in the bubble next to a We-saw, which is like a high-tech seesaw, or a Curva Spinner, which allows for some serious stand-up spinning.

The school is scheduled for renovations and upgrades this spring, including playground improvement, funded through the bond issue passed in 2017. There’s a very good chance new equipment could include the students’ winning vote, said Principal Kristen Fuss.

Fourth-grader Brooklynn Weenum said it’s important to to have a say on decisions through voting

Fourth-grade teacher Emily Adamczyk created an experience as close to voting in a precinct as possible for her students, complete with cardboard privacy dividers between desks and secret ballots. Students had to wait patiently as votes came in from the other kindergarten through fourth grade classes. The final tally: We-Saw 121, Curva Spinner 62,

“It’s fun. It feels good to vote,” said fourth-grader Alex Johnson. “If we add playground equipment without voting for it, (students) may not like it.”

Fourth-grader Jonathan Andujar fills out his ballot

He made the connection to why voting for the U.S. President and other elected officials is important. “It’s so people can have a say in government,” he said.

Leading up to the big vote, Adamczyk’s students have studied federal governments, including what it would be like with no government and what it means to be a republic that elects representatives. They’ve learned about the importance of laws, branches of government and checks and balances. 

Adamczyck began the morning by talking about her own experience getting to the polls and waiting in line for an hour to cast her ballot.

“They have clearly heard from me that I am very passionate about voting, regardless of who you are voting for, because it’s our right as a U.S. citizen to be sharing who you think would be a good representative for us.”

Fourth-grader Brooklynn Weenum said she thinks it’s good to be involved in what goes on in school — and the country. 

“I think it’s important to vote because everyone gets a chance to say what they want and I think it’s important for our class because everyone is voting on what they want for our school,” she said. “It’s important for everyone to share their thoughts on who is going to be our next president or whatever, and who’s going to be the best for us.”

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Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese is associate managing editor and reporter, covering Byron Center, Kentwood, Wyoming and Grand Rapids Community College. She was one of the original SNN staff writers, helping launch the site in 2013 and enjoys fulfilling the mission of sharing the stories of public education. She has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers, On-the-Town Magazine and Group Tour Media. Read Erin's full bio or email Erin.

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