Teach the 2012 Presidential Election with Interactive Web Game

In the months leading up to the 2004 election, it was a mark of pride to be 18 years old at my high school. Students in civics, government and history classes spent hours participating in mock elections and debates. We’d write scripts for campaign commercials and learn how the Electoral College worked. We spent so much time and effort understanding the democratic process that it saddened many of us who were not old enough to actually cast an official vote. Still, the education we received during the Bush/Kerry race was valuable, especially for high school seniors preparing to enter college and develop their political leanings and social stances.

At the time of this writing, there are 70 days until the nation decides to re-elect President Obama or change things up with Mitt Romney. Until that time comes, schools can dive into this election season with a new tool published by Rand McNally today. Play the Election is a free collaborative online tool that teaches students about the 2012 race through games, resources and (hopefully) friendly competition.

Play the Election allows students to predict the election winners for each state on an interactive map and compare their predictions to their classmates and the country’s actual poll results to see where they rank. Students can also compare elections throughout the years, though the interactive map goes only as far back as the historic 1960 race between Kennedy and Nixon.

There’s also room for some hypothesizing as well. Students can use the map to plot out their own predictions about the race. Even though 1976 was the last time Texas gave its 34 electoral votes to a Democratic candidate, students can click on the state and give it to Obama for a “what-if” scenario.

Educators can pull lesson plans from Play the Election that make flexible use of technology. Since the game is web-based, teachers can use it on computers, tablets and interactive whiteboards. And since each student creates their own account in order to play the game at home, teachers can use their administrative access to monitor their students activity online.

Rand McNally also announced their “Dear Mr. President” essay contest open to 7-12th grade students ages 13 to 20. The contest asks students to write about what the most important issue they’d like the President to address. Rand McNally will select ten finalists who will win a three-day, two-night trip to Washington D.C. and have their work published in “Dear Mr. President” ebook and on USA TODAY’s website. Two grand prize winners will both receive $5,000 scholarships. (Personally, I think they should also throw in an opportunity for the winner to meet whoever sits in the White House come January 2013 and talk about their chosen writing topic face-to-face.)

Play the Election and more detailed information and complete contest rules for “Dear Mr. President” are available at www.randmcnally.com/dearmrpresident.