NACOGDOCHES, Texas — As the presidential election approaches, teacher candidates at Stephen F. Austin State University are working with the Nacogdoches Public Library to help local families teach their children about their civic duty.
The library is distributing a limited number of election activity boxes assembled by the teacher candidates in SFA’s Community Responsiveness and Engaged Advocacy in Teacher Education program, or C.R.E.A.T.E.
“Elections are so important, at every level — local, state and federal. Children of all ages see campaign signs, watch candidate debates and hear adults talking about issues and candidates,” said Dr. Heather Olson Beal, professor in SFA’s James I. Perkins College of Education.
“We need to talk to kids and answer their questions about what elections mean and who is running for what offices,” she added. “We hope these activities help families engage children about the events leading up to voting as well as the voting process from an early age.”
The teacher candidates packed the following items in the election activity boxes: information sheets on how to vote, an assessment tool to evaluate candidates, blank postcards to learn how to write elected officials, “I Voted” stickers, and the recipes for President Donald Trump’s and former Vice President Joe Biden’s favorite desserts.
The election activity boxes also contain books about voting, including "So What's the Big Deal about Elections?" for children in kindergarten through grade 3, "Understanding Your Role in Elections" for children in grades 3 through 6, and “Lifting as We Climb: Black Women's Battle for the Ballot Box” for young adults.
“Talking about politics and especially the election has become so taboo in today's society,” said Eriqa Noriega, an elementary education senior from San Antonio and a teacher candidate in the C.R.E.A.T.E program who helped assemble the boxes.
“These activity boxes provide families with the tools to engage in healthy, productive conversations — and, most importantly, involve their children in these conversations — about the election,” she said. “It wouldn't be such a sensitive topic if we learned from a young age how to talk about it.”
Noriega added that the postcard-writing activity also is key. “It helps children learn how to advocate for themselves and others.”
The idea for the project originated in a faculty learning community facilitated by Dr. Lauren Burrow, an associate professor in the Perkins College of Education, and offered by SFA’s Center for Teaching and Learning.
“These learning communities help SFA faculty members brainstorm and refine practical ideas that can be executed efficiently and successfully,” Burrow said. “In this case, faculty saw a way to assist local families in cutting through the noise around the presidential election and examining the basics of the process in a way that all ages can understand.”
Early voting runs Oct. 13-30 in Texas. Election Day is Nov. 3.
To learn more about the election activity boxes, email Olson Beal at firstname.lastname@example.org.