Authentic Learning with a Simulated Campaign

olson-teaserLooking for ways to get students interested in how the political process works? In “A Campaign Simulation for Authentic Learning” David Olson describes a popular collaboration that helps his AP U.S. Government students practice what they’ve learned by working together on simulated U.S. Senate campaigns.

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The school library is, at its best, an incubator of democratic values and a haven for inquiry.  At James Madison Memorial High School in Madison, Wisconsin, where I teach social studies, our students utilize library resources, with the support of school librarians, in nearly all courses. Starting as first semester freshmen, our students approach the issues of immigration and migration by exploring their own families’ journeys. Through modeling, think-alouds, and mini-lessons from the librarians, students use Ancestry.com (purchased by our library) to find primary resources relating to their families, learn proper citation and database search techniques, and connect their personal stories to broader themes using the ABC-CLIO American History database and a curated collection of print materials. Eleventh grade students use Biography in Context and Gale Virtual Reference Library to create fictional universities centered on the social and political protest movements of the 1960s and 1970s. My upper-level students visit the library several times during the course of the semester to conduct research from books and databases, play iCivics games, explore webquests, and collaborate in small groups. All of these lessons are planned and instructed in collaboration with the school librarian.

A few years ago, when my department began offering AP U.S. Government and Politics, I was faced with a conundrum. In a second semester AP course in a state where school doesn’t end until June, what do I do with the last three weeks of class? I found my answer with my school librarian, Robin Amado, who helped me craft a campaign simulation using library resources. In each class, my students divided into campaign teams to run for a U.S. Senate seat. Campaigns featured a candidate, campaign manager, website team, advertising team, social media team, and policy wonks (specialists in policy details). The project allows students to simulate the election process and put into practice everything they’ve learned about the political world. Continue reading “Authentic Learning with a Simulated Campaign”