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Election brings lessons home for middle school students

The ballots Rosemount Middle School students used to vote Tuesday didn't look like the ones their parents used, but they got across the idea of what's involved in choosing a candidate.

When it's your job to teach students how government works, there's no better teaching tool than an election, particularly one that has gotten as much attention as the campaign that came to an end Tuesday.

At Rosemount Middle School, Henry Gerten took advantage. The sixth-grade social studies teacher rearranged his teaching schedule this year with the election in mind, placing his lessons on the Constitution in October. On Tuesday, he capped things off by giving his students the opportunity to vote.

Class by class, his students filed down to the school's media center, sat down at a computer and filled out a simplified ballot that asked them to make their choice for President, US Senate and US House. Gerten's lessons didn't focus much on state-level politics, but one student's grandfather is Greg Clausen, who was running for Minnesota Senate.

Gerten also included some of the third-party candidates on the ballot in the Presidential race.

Early voters got a red I Voted sticker like the ones handed out at the polls run by the city of Rosemount, but enough students cast ballots that Gerten had run out by late morning.

Gerten brought all of his students to the RMS polls, but the voting was open to all students. Much of the school voted shortly after the polls opened in the morning.

"This is really neat, because we tested on our unit and then we got to vote," Gerten said. "It's just a really neat area for political exercise."

The school announced the results of its election at the end of the day Tuesday, and Gerten said he planned to take some time in his Wednesday classes to talk about the results of the vote. He planned to compare the RMS results to the national results and ask students what they thought about what had happened.

The results could be useful in other classes, too, Gerten said. A math teacher could use them for lessons on percentages.

Gerten said it's good to give students an early introduction to the political process. It won't be long before the students' votes count for real.

"It's great," he said. "They're a little disappointed that theirs didn't actually count. I tell them it's a dress rehearsal."