Guest Blogger: Todd LaVogue and His Students Take Field Trip to the Presidential Inauguration

Todd LaVogue Inauguration

You might remember Todd LaVogue from his guest blog post back in September. He continues to do incredible projects with his students and was able to organize and complete a field trip for 38 students to the 2013 Presidential Inauguration through 10 months of fund raising and planning.  BrainPOP was there to help him along the way, so check out his reflection of his presidential planning below!

While the election and government related BrainPOP movies laid the groundwork, the biggest BrainPOP contributor to student learning was the GameUp section. Three games – Win the White House, Budget Hero and Executive Command proved to be addictive for the students, who quickly learned it is not a simple or easy job to be President of the United States. In Win the White House, students learned about the strategy involved with a campaign. The game reinforced higher-order thinking skills needed to successfully run a presidential campaign.

“Politics seem complicated,” said seventh grader Eugena Butler. “Win the White House game made it easier for me to understand a campaign. Obama and Romney had to work real hard to get enough votes.”

Budget Hero and Executive Command allowed the students to make future-altering decisions as the president. The students had a chance to see how one decision can have far-reaching effects. Once again, higher-order thinking skills were necessary to be successful.

“Those games showed me that the President has a lot to do every day,” said RMS Student Council President Shamila Forbes. “It was addictive. I just wanted to keep playing and make the country better.”

Every seventh grade social studies teacher used GameUp as part of their lessons. A few sixth and eighth grade social studies teachers were able to incorporate GameUp into current events lessons related to the election.

I truly feel the students have a much deeper understanding of the political process because of BrainPOP. The 38 students I took to Washington D.C. for the inauguration understood that event was the culmination of a lengthy political season and they were witnessing a uniquely American tradition. They understood political parties, primaries, voting, democracy and the election process through the assistance of BrainPOP.

This field trip was conceptualized in March of 2012 when a group of sixth and seventh grade students approached me asking about the election process. They wanted more information and wanted to know who gets to go to an inauguration. I told them I would work on lessons for the next school year for them. I also told them anyone can go to the inauguration. They replied that they wanted to go and wanted my help to make it happen.

I worked on lessons over the summer and partnered with our social studies department to follow the election in their classrooms. Seventh graders take Civics, so it was an easy fit to incorporate election coverage into their lessons. Sixth and eighth grade teachers needed to add a component to their daily schedule allowing for election discussions.

I provided a professional development workshop on technology in the classroom for the teachers at my school. I introduced them to BrainPOP GameUp. Most teachers were already regularly using the BrainPOP videos and activities. None were using GameUp. I showed them the now 57 games available to them and their students, covering a wide variety of subjects.

The feedback has been great. The teachers who introduced GameUp in the classroom have seen student engagement increase. The students are also showing a deeper understanding of the content.

Based on the election energy on campus, the Student Council organized a mock election one week ahead of the actual presidential election. They created three polling places on campus with 10 voting booths at each polling place. Students were required to show their school identification as their voter’s identification card. Results were tabulated and entered on a Google docs site with schools from all 50 states. The students were able to see nationwide voting, calculate electoral votes, and determine a winner from popular voting as well as electoral voting.

The planning was time consuming and difficult. Successfully navigating 38 middle school kids through a crowd of 800,000 on inauguration morning was an extremely nerve-wracking event. The payoff, however, of seeing my students from an inner city school witness an African American President re-inaugurated on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day was a moment I will never forget. It will be the most indelible moment of my teaching career.

Thank you to BrainPOP for providing content students want to use. The students I teach face daily adversity most people cannot comprehend. GameUp and the Tim & Moby series of videos provide a level of engagement sought after in our classrooms. It has certainly become a tool in our teacher toolboxes.