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Everything Your Students Always Wanted to Know About Electing the President (But Were Too Afraid to Ask)

Everything Your Students Always Wanted to Know About Electing the President
A lot goes into electing a president. The 24 hour news cycle has certainly improved the public consciousness about campaigning and each political party’s convention, but there is still much undiscovered territory for students, especially the role of the Electoral College in electing the 45th chief executive. As the 2020 presidential election nears, here are some terrific resources for teaching students of all ages how the next president will be chosen.

How did we get here?

Scholastic provides the “Road to the White House” that chronicles the journey from campaign to convention and through the election in an entertaining and illustrative interactive tour. Students of all ages will appreciate this journey as a refresher of how the United States narrowed a long list of candidates down to just two major party contenders in the last 12 months.

What are “blue and red states”?

When discussing an historical topic, teachers often rely on textbooks or handouts to explain common vocabulary terms in advance to avoid student confusion. But when discussing current events or “general knowledge” topics, we sometimes forgo a primer on the jargon  necessary for understanding. Scholastic has provided a concise list of need to know terms as you discuss the electoral process to ensure no one is left behind when you reference “GOP” or a party’s “platform”.

What is the  Electoral College?

Here is where your electoral adventure takes a turn toward surprise, and maybe even befuddlement.  Many students may not know what the Electoral College is and why it determines the next president.

One way to explain this system is to use music. Musical Media for Education has a song about the Electoral College, which includes a lyrics list so your students can follow along with the song.

Or, if you’re old school like I am, Schoolhouse Rock has an excellent Electoral College song for use in your class ($) that covers the electoral system in their typical entertaining manner.

Does my vote even count?

Once your students understand the role of the Electoral College, they may wonder if their votes even count. Show them this Ted-Ed video about the electoral college and importance of voting, particularly in certain states.

Is this the best way to determine the leader of the free world?

This all may be a bit jarring for your students. They may have valid questions about whether this is the best, most democratic way to choose a leader. Go over the history of the Electoral College from the House of Representatives website. This History Channel video also gives more background on why the founding fathers implemented this system.

There are some detractors of this system. The major arguments are chronicled by Scholastic. This is a great opportunity to hold a debate or to ask students to write a claim about the validity of this system using a selection of documents from this post.

What do the electors do when they meet?

The meeting of the Electoral College is not a clandestine event. C-SPAN has video of the 2008 meeting of the electors from Illinois and Arizona. This is a terrific primary source that gives the students a glimpse into our democratic process.

How can a candidate win the election?

The best way to understand how an election is won is top ask the students to win an election themselves. iCivics has a fun election game to help students win the White House, as well as ideas for mock elections in the classroom.

Students can also track the race to 270 electoral votes with an interactive electoral map. This would also be handy for a research project that asks the students to predict the results of the election by tracking each state’s past voting habits.

The Washington Post has an Electoral College curriculum that encompasses all of the above questions in one handy document with numerous resources. In addition, Help Teaching offers numerous free election worksheets, including a presidential election quiz and electoral vote activities for both the 2008 and 2012 elections.

With so much attention paid to the popular vote and so much polling data on all of the major networks, it can be easy for students to be unfamiliar with the electoral process. Don’t let this election pass without giving them a primer on one of the most important components of our democratic system!

18 Fun Facts about the 2018 Winter Olympics for Kids

18 Fun Facts about the 2018 Winter Olympics for Kids
In 2018, the Winter Olympics head to PyeongChang, a county in South Korea. The area is located in the Taebaek Mountains and is known for its world-class ski resorts, making it an ideal spot for the winter games. Read on to discover some fun facts about the games themselves and the athletes competing this year.

1. The mascot of the Olympics is a white tiger named Soohorang. The white tiger is a common figure in Korean folk tales. The “White Tigers” is also the nickname of South Korea’s most elite battalion.

2. The emblem for the games is comprised of shapes that make up the consonants in the word PyeongChang when written in Hangul, the Korean alphabet. The alphabet is unique because it is used to represent individual letters and those letters can be arranged to represent different syllables.

3. The medals that will be awarded to athletes were designed to represent tree trunks. PyeongChang is known for its mountain forests, but ironically an entire forest was destroyed to create a ski run for the games. If you could design a medal, what would it look like?

4. The fabric from which the medals hang is a South Korean fabric called gapsa. It is a lightweight, sheer fabric. For the games, the fabric has been embroidered with Korean symbols.

5. There are six new events at the 2018 PyeongChang games. They include: a Nations Team Event for alpine skiing, big air men’s and women’s snowboarding, mass start men’s and women’s speed skating, and mixed doubles curling.

6. There are more female and mixed events than at any other Olympics in history.

7. Norway has won the most medals at the Winter Olympic Games. The 329 medals won by Norwegians include 118 gold meals. The United States has won the second-largest number of medals with 282, including 96 gold. Track the medals won during this year’s game to see if Norway stays in the lead.

8. There are a record 102 medal events during these Olympic games. 259 sets of medals have been cast for the games.

9. Due to a doping scandal, Russia has been banned from competing in the 2018 Winter Olympic Games. Athletes from Russia may still compete, but they must do so as individuals, not as part of a country and cannot wear any uniforms that represent Russia.

10. South Korea and North Korea have experienced a tense relationship for many years and an area near the border between the two countries has been off-limits to people. However, this area will be opened up for Olympic athletes to travel through.

11. Although there is a small airport near PyeongChang, athletes attending the games will likely fly in and out of Incheon Airport in Seoul. A high-speed train line was built to help people travel from the airport to PyeongChang in under two hours.

12. The last two Winter Olympic Games have been fairly warm, with outdoor competitors landing in puddles and skiing on man-made snow. However, the games in PyeongChang are expected to be very cold (the wind chill makes it feel like it is in the single digits) and there will be plenty of natural snow.

13. Athletes and spectators will have to brave the cold to sit in the open-air Olympic stadium. The stadium cost around $107 million to build and is scheduled to be torn down after the games.

14. For the first time, National Hockey League members, who include some of the greatest hockey players in the world, are not going to participate in the Winter Olympics. League officials did not want to pause their regularly scheduled season to allow athletes to participate.

15. Maame Biney made history by becoming the first African-American woman to qualify for the U.S. short track speedskating team. She is only 17 years old. Another 17-year-old, Chloe Kim, is favored to win gold in snowboarding.

16. There are multiple sets of siblings set to compete in the Winter Games. They include ice dancing duo Maia and Alex Shibutani; ice hockey players Hannah and Marissa Brandt; and curlers Becca and Matt Hamilton.

17. Six nations are also scheduled to compete in the Winter Olympics for the first time: Ecuador, Eritrea, Kosovo, Malaysia, Nigeria and Singapore. Other nations, such as France, Austria, and Germany considered not attending the games because of the tensions between North and South Korea. However, they have since agreed to attend.

18. 92 nations, including athletes from Russia who will be competing under the International Olympic Committee flag, will be represented that 2018 Winter Olympic Games.

Who are you cheering for during this year’s Winter Olympic Games? Help kids get excited by researching the athletes who will be competing at the games and completing fun Olympic worksheets.

10 More Fun Facts for Geography Awareness Week

10 More Fun Facts for Geography Awareness Week
It’s that time of year again! That’s right, it’s Geography Awareness Week. The time of year when students clamor for scintillating information about our world and features that make it special. You’ve probably read our first feature, Ten Fun Facts for Geography Awareness Week, and you’ve been waiting for a brand new installment to share with your friends. Well, your wait is finally over. Get a load of these fresh facts about our world.

  1. The wettest city in America (that is, the city with the most annual rainfall) is Mobile, AL, with an average of 67 inches. The notoriously rainy Pacific Northwest does not appear until 24th on the wettest list, but Olympia, WA is credited with having the most rainy days in the country, averaging 63 per year. The wettest inhabited city in the world is Buenaventira, Colombia, which receives 267” of rain per year!
  2. Africa is the only continent located in all four hemispheres. It is, therefore, the only continent to have land on the prime meridian and the equator.
  3. Alaska is clearly the northernmost and westernmost US state, but it’s also the easternmost! The Alaskan Aleutian Islands just barely cross the 180 degree meridian of longitude, placing them in the Eastern Hemisphere. 
  4. China shares its international borders with an incredible 16 nations!

    Asia phys
    Well, some will argue that it is only 14 bordering nations. China attains its title of Border Nations King only when you include Hong Kong and Macau,
    “Special Administrative Regions” of China that are not exactly autonomous. If you do not count those two regions as independent nations that border China (and many in Hong Kong do not feel independent), then Russia ties China, as they also have 14 bordering nations. 
  5. The largest pyramid in the world is located in…Mexico! The Great Pyramid of Cholula is located in Cholula, Puebla, Mexico and was believed to be dedicated to the god Quetzalcoatl.

  6. We typically think of deserts as sand covered, barren areas with ridiculously high temperatures. But a desert is actually defined by its (lack of) rainfall amounts. The largest desert on Earth is the Antarctic Desert at 5.5 million square miles. This region averages less than two inches of rainfall per year. The largest hot desert in the world is the Sahara Desert at 3.1 million square miles. 
  7. According to the most recent US census, 192 different languages are spoken in New York City, making it the most linguistically diverse city in the country. New York barely beat out Los Angeles, who came in at 185 languages. The title of most languages spoken in one country belongs to Papua New Guinea with 820! The island has been inhabited for 40,000 years, so many languages have evolved and differentiated themselves from other. Also, Papua New Guinea has many natural barriers, leaving its people very fragmented. Cultural diffusion is minimal and many of these tiny groups have retained their own languages.
  8. Mount Everest is the world’s tallest mountain…when measured above sea level. When measured from the sea floor, Mauna Kea in Hawaii measures at over 32,000 feet, making it over 3,000 feet higher than Everest. Mauna Kea is less than 14,000 feet high when measured from above sea level.
  9. The Falkland Islands house 500,000 sheep and only 3,000 people. There are numerous countries whose sheep population outnumbers the human population including New Zealand,Mongolia, and Australia.

  10. If you don’t like your neighbors, move to Mongolia. It is the least densely populated country in the world with four people per square mile. Monaco is the most densely populated country in the world at 49,236 people per square mile. Though, some would argue that Monaco’s reign as most densely populated country is unfair. The nebulous nature of the aforementioned Macau puts Monaco’s title in danger, as the “Special Administrative Region” of China has a population density of 55,301 per square mile.

Leave any fun geography facts that you discover in the comments section. We’ll be sure to have our third annual Geography Extravaganza next year.

16 Fun Facts about the 2016 Summer Olympics for Kids

16 Fun Facts about the 2016 Summer Olympics for Kids
Every four years, athletes from around the world gather to compete in the Summer Olympic Games. While the athletes are competing to win gold, the games give kids a chance to learn more about the events the athletes are competing in, as well as the part of the world where the games are held. This year, the 2016 Summer Olympic Games are being held in Rio de Janeiro, the second most populous municipality in Brazil. Despite the controversy surrounding the games and their location, there are a lot of reasons to get excited. We’ve rounded up some fun facts about the 2016 Summer Olympic Games to help get kids excited too.

1. Rio de Janeiro is the first South American city to host the Olympic Games. For a fun geography activity, look up the locations of previous Olympic games and mark them on a world map.

2. Over 10,000 athletes will compete in the games. The U.S. will bring over 500 of those athletes, which you can learn about on Team USA’s website.

3. It will cost Rio de Janeiro over $9.5 billion to host the Summer Olympic games.

4. Golf will be played at the 2016 Olympics. The sport has not been part of the Summer Games for over 100 years.

5. In many countries, the competition just to make the Olympic team was tough. Queen Harrison, a hurdler, missed qualifying for the U.S. team by two one-hundredths of a second.

6. Over 45% of the athletes in Rio will be female. That’s a higher percentage of females than ever before.

7. Dipa Karmakar will compete as the first Indian female gymnast in 52 years to qualify for the Olympic games.

8. Yusra Mardini, an 18-year-old swimmer, will compete under the Olympic flag as part of the first team of refugee athletes.

9. Leila, Liina, and Lily Luik will be the first set of triplets to compete in the same Olympic sport. They are marathon runners from Estonia.

10. Simone Biles, the most decorated female gymnast in history, is the shortest member of Team USA at 4’8″ tall.

11. To prepare for the Olympics, workers in Rio de Janeiro built 43 miles of new roads and planted thousands of trees.

12. Canadian horse-jumper, Ian Miller, will compete in his 11th Olympic Games. He’s 69 years old.

13. Michael Phelps, the most-decorated Olympian of all time, will attempt to increase his medal count at the 2016 Games. He currently has 22 Olympic medals, 18 of them gold.

14. The country of Kosovo will compete in its first Olympics this year, sending eight athletes to the Games.

15. Nino Salukvadze and Tsotne Machavariani, shooters from the country of Georgia, are the first mother-son duo to compete at the Games.

16. Singer Katy Perry released her first single in two years, a song called “Rise,” which will be used as an anthem for the Olympic Games.

Want to learn more about the Olympics? Work with your kids to complete our Summer Olympics Scavenger Hunt or one of our other Olympics-themed worksheets found on our seasonal worksheets page.

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