Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate is unveiling “Caucus 101” — a seven-part instructional series to teach high school students the basics of Iowa’s first-in-the-nation Caucuses.
“It’s written by Iowa teachers, for Iowa classrooms,” Pate said today.
Canada Snyder, a teacher at Des Moines Central Academy, is one of the three teachers who co-authored the lesson plans.
“I hope they learn the history and the background concerning Iowa’s important status as first-in-the-nation and that teachers utilize this in a variety of different ways,” Snyder said.
Adam Arthur teaches government at Des Moines Lincoln High School and he is another collaborator on the lesson plans.
“We came at it not from a national standpoint, but from an Iowa standpoint and tried to make it real for kids, so that way they become less intimidated when they go to caucus,” he said. “…Hopefully that will increase civic participation.”
The lesson plan describes how to hold “mock” caucuses. For Republicans, it’s a simple ballot, but for Democrats, it’s different. That’s why Snyder and the two other teachers decided rather than having students use candidate names, the students participating in a mock Democratic Party Caucus declare their support or preference for a particular kind of fruit.
“They can choose which corner of the room they want to go to by using different kinds of fruits and making sure they have that idea of the 15 percent viability and being able to argue with each other about why my fruit is better, so it makes it less engaging and interactive for the students,” Snyder said. “…It makes it less divisive.”
Pate served one term as secretary of state in the late 1990s and offered a “Kids Caucus” program. “Caucus 101” is “more relevant” and “cooler,” according to Pate.
“Offering so much more at a pace that teachers can take as much or as little as they want,” Pate said. “The community can. Anyone can go online and pull up these pieces are learn just as much as anybody else about what a caucus is.”
Each presidential campaign has been invited to submit a video that will be included in the lesson plan — and will likely be viewed by thousands of Iowa students. Pate told reporters Democratic candidates have been much quicker to respond to that invitation, but he’s giving Republicans a few more days to submit videos. Pate says the non-partisan “Caucus 101” lesson plan has been “endorsed” by both political parties and by the Iowa Council for the Social Studies. Pate spoke at the council’s annual convention in Ankeny this afternoon.
“The curriculum is fun,” Pate said. “It’s easy. It’s accessible and it provides a great avenue to encourage your students, parents and the community to become more engaged in the electoral process.”