Winnetka, Ill. - A group of New Trier High School government students recently experienced a real-life lesson in electoral politics as they canvassed neighborhoods and engaged Wisconsin voters on behalf of the Democratic and Republican parties.
Around 40 AP Government students visited Waukesha, Wis., a suburb of Milwaukee, on Oct. 18. Teachers Lindsay Arado and Alex Zilka specifically chose the town because it is in a swing state with a close Senate race.
Once they arrived, students divided into two groups, visiting either the Democratic or Republican offices in downtown Waukesha. There, students learned how much work it takes to get people engaged in the election and out to vote.
"Learning really comes alive when students leave New Trier and experience what we've talked about in class," Arado said. "My hope is that this kind of field trip will help our students become citizens who recognize the importance of active participation in our democracy. Voting is one level of activity, but there are many additional ways for people to be involved."
The students were trained on how to canvass and approach the Waukesha residents at their homes. Tasks included asking residents if they will vote and when they could help volunteer to canvass or work at the phone bank. They were also given political literature to hand out to residents.
After some practice in the offices, the students received stickers and buttons and a clipboard of registered voters and their addresses. In groups of three to five students, they made their way around town, talking to voters and capturing their day on Twitter.
Senior Harris Lerner enjoyed his first time canvassing with the Republican office, he said.
"I realized a lot goes into this behind the scenes," Lerner said. "We took a survey and asked 'If the election was today, who would you vote for?' It was really interesting."
Niko Gjaja, a senior who worked with the Democrats, also wants to help out more in the future.
"It's cool to see democracy in action," he said. "It's hard to get the message out to vote, but with more people, it can work."