School House to the White House: DMPS and the Caucuses

C-SPAN broadcast a caucus held at Roosevelt High School in 2008.

For the past four decades, Iowa has been the first stop on the road to the White House. And over the years, Des Moines Public Schools has been along for the ride.

From providing students with a unique learning opportunity about the political process to providing dozens of precinct caucus sites throughout the community, schools in Des Moines and across Iowa both benefit from and are supportive of Iowa’s unique position.

In 2008, for example, presidential candidates made regular stops at public schools in Des Moines, whether it was visiting a classroom to talk about education or using a gym to hold a campaign rally. National television networks, such as CNN and C-SPAN, broadcast live from caucuses at our schools. And one candidate – U.S. Senator Chris Dodd – even sent his kids to school in Des Moines!

While there may be fewer candidates in Iowa in 2012 – since the caucuses are only competitive for one party this time around – there is still a lot to learn and do.

In fact, before Iowa voters go to their caucuses on the evening of January 3rd, students at Hillis Elementary School will have the first say on a critical issue: the best cookie. Throughout the day, Hillis students will participate in a “cookie caucus” to select one of three candidates: chocolate chip, sugar, or M&M.

Hillis fifth graders organized the mock caucus as a way to learn about the electoral process. The students prepared commercials that were “broadcast” during morning announcements as well as posters to promote their favorite flour-and-sugar candidates. The students then made a presentation to each kindergarten through fourth grade class about the caucus process and how to participate in the cookie caucus. Students even filled out voter registration forms. Following their participation in the caucus, students will receive the cookie which earned their support.

“This is a fun way for the students to become more aware about the political process,” said Heidi Slinker, a fifth grade teacher at Hillis. “The caucus activity also has promoted conversations at home, and has helped students understand the process that goes into becoming President of the United States.”

And when the cookies are done being tallied at Hillis, it along with 44 other schools throughout Des Moines will serve as caucus sites on Tuesday night.

“Des Moines Public Schools is proud to partner in Iowa’s caucus process,” said Twyla Woods, director of community education at DMPS, whose office also helps coordinate the use of school facilities by outside organizations. “The eyes of the world are on Iowa and on Des Moines, and everyone at DMPS is committed to putting our best foot forward.”

On the evening of January 3rd, classrooms, cafeterias, gymnasiums and auditoriums at the following Des Moines schools will serve as sites for Iowa’s first-in-the-nation caucuses:

Elementary Schools: Brubaker, Capitol View, Carver, Cattell, Edmunds, Findley, Garton, Greenwood, Hanawalt, Hillis, Howe, Hubbell, Jackson, Jefferson, King, Lovejoy, McKinley, Monroe, Morris, Moulton, Oak Park, Park Avenue, Perkins, Phillips, River Woods, Samuelson, South Union, Stowe, Willard, Windsor, Wright

Middle Schools: Brody, Callanan, Harding, Hoyt, Meredith, Merrill, Weeks

High Schools: East, Hoover, Lincoln, Lincoln South, North, Roosevelt, Scavo

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