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Snack votes and ‘crazy’ debates: What the presidential election looks like through the eyes of an elementary school student

Tatum Birnhak, Chloe Elton and Chloe Lane stood outside P.S. 41 selling baked goods on Election Day.
Tatum Birnhak, Chloe Elton and Chloe Lane stood outside P.S. 41 selling baked goods on Election Day.
Monica Disare

For many New York City students, the last few months have been a lesson in American democracy — for better or worse. Even with limited experience, many understood this election season has been abnormal.

“It’s crazy. A lot of people say it’s not supposed to be this way,” said fifth-grader Chloe Lane. “In the last election, it wasn’t this crazy.”

Chloe was one of a handful of students standing outside P.S. 41 in Greenwich Village Tuesday morning, capitalizing on the long polling lines at the school by selling baked goods to voters to benefit their school. Here’s what they had to say:

Chloe Elton and Chloe Lane, fifth-graders

To learn about the election, Chloe Lane and her classmate Chloe Elton participated in a vote of their own. Instead of picking presidential candidates, the students faced a real choice between three snacks: Goldfish, Pirate’s Booty and granola bars.

Each student was assigned a state and teachers tabulated their snack choices using a mock electoral college point system. To add to the drama, the students explained, they will find out the winner of their snack election Wednesday morning — and get to consume it on their next field trip.

Despite the allure of tasty snacks, Chloe Lane said the actual presidential election is “more exciting.”

Tatum Birnhak, third-grader

Tatum Birnhak did not participate in the fifth-grade snack election, but still managed to glean an understanding of how the electoral college works.

She explained that a state like Wyoming, which only has “three electoral vote things,” isn’t as important in the long run as a state with more people.

“Basically, if Trump wins a bunch of small states but Hillary wins the bigger states, Hillary can still win,” Tatum said.

When asked how she felt about Hillary Clinton, she exclaimed “Yay!” and explained her reasoning.“I think it would be a good thing that women would rule for once,” she said.

Calvin Noto shares his views on the election.
Calvin Noto shares his views on the election.
Monica Disare

Calvin Noto, third-grader

In Calvin Noto’s third-grade class, his teacher simulated elections with characters from fictional books. For president, Calvin had the option of voting for Jake Drake or Junie B. Jones, both title characters of popular children’s book series.

Calvin said he ended up going with Jake because his platform included a plan to raise taxes and improve education, including adding 15 extra minutes to each school day, which seemed important.

In his class election, Calvin didn’t have to listen to the candidates arguing like he did in the real presidential election.

“Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are basically insulting each other a lot,” he said.

Sabrina Noto and Dot Lethbridge discuss the presidential election.
Sabrina Noto and Dot Lethbridge discuss the presidential election.
Monica Disare

Dot Lethbridge and Sabrina Noto, fifth-graders

Dot Lethbridge and Sabrina Noto’s teacher made sure they had an exhaustive understanding of each presidential candidate. They were given articles to read, worksheets that compared the candidates on major issues like immigration and national security, and even information about what Trump and Clinton were like as kids.

But they still feel a bit baffled by Trump’s plans. Dot, whose parents are both British immigrants, finds his views on immigration “annoying.” For Sabrina, the idea that Mexico would pay for a border wall is simply impractical.

“I don’t know how that’s even going to work,” she said. “The Great Wall of China did not work out.”

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