Engaging young students in #elxn42

Social studies teacher uses tech to engage young students in federal election

Westsyde Secondary School social studies teacher Jeremy Reid. (Submitted)

For many young people, national politics can feel like a complicated and overwhelming process that has no bearing on their lives. One social studies teacher at Westsyde Secondary is trying to change all that through a Twitter account that allows students to engage directly with local election Candidates.

The account, “Teenagers at WSS” (@BlueWaveWSS) is moderated by Jeremy Reid and draws its insightful questions from his Grades 10, 11 and 12 social studies classes. Reid said he began the program during the last federal election with the goal of “making learning real” and stopping students from “tuning out politics.”

The primary concern for Reid’s students seems to be the controversial Bill C-51. Students posed questions about the bill to both Liberal candidate Steve Powrie and Green Party candidate Matt Greenwood. Powrie provided a detailed summary of his party’s planned reform of the bill while Greenwood tweeted back “should never have passed and must be repealed. It does nothing to make Canada more safe …”

Other questions asked about job opportunities for young people, the NDP’s proposed federal minimum wage increase, green energy and plans for taxes.

More questions from the Westsyde students will likely continue until the end of the election. On Sept. 24 they tweeted “Thank you to @Cathy_McLeod @bsundhu @MattGreenPC @Powrie15 for taking the time to answer this week’s #elxn42 Q’s more next week! #Kamloops.”

Reid’s classes were already uniquely focused on the latest technology before the election, with every student being given access to one of the 100 iPads owned by WSS. Students in Reid’s classes have used the iPads and Twitter in the past to post short poems about the Red River Rebellion and publish e-books about Kamloops history created by the class.

When asked if he thought that his method should become standard for social studies teachers trying to engage their students politically, Reid said that political engagement was important, but every school needs to find its own way to create it.