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Hartford Fifth-graders Play Pollsters

  • Dothan Brook School student Kyle Atkinson, center, tries to unlock voter Trudy George’s cell phone at the polls at Hartford High School yesterday as classmate Joey Raymond looks on. George told the fifth-grader she’d answer his polling question, which was part of a class project, if he could unlock her phone.<br/><br/>(Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)

    Dothan Brook School student Kyle Atkinson, center, tries to unlock voter Trudy George’s cell phone at the polls at Hartford High School yesterday as classmate Joey Raymond looks on. George told the fifth-grader she’d answer his polling question, which was part of a class project, if he could unlock her phone.

    (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Dothan Brook School fifth-grade teacher Franklin Burns laughs while talking with his students at Hartford High School after they conducted a poll of residents going to vote. On the left is student Emi Harlow and on the right raising her hand is AnnaLeigh Lynch.<br/>(Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)

    Dothan Brook School fifth-grade teacher Franklin Burns laughs while talking with his students at Hartford High School after they conducted a poll of residents going to vote. On the left is student Emi Harlow and on the right raising her hand is AnnaLeigh Lynch.
    (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Dothan Brook School student Kyle Atkinson, center, tries to unlock voter Trudy George’s cell phone at the polls at Hartford High School yesterday as classmate Joey Raymond looks on. George told the fifth-grader she’d answer his polling question, which was part of a class project, if he could unlock her phone.<br/><br/>(Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)
  • Dothan Brook School fifth-grade teacher Franklin Burns laughs while talking with his students at Hartford High School after they conducted a poll of residents going to vote. On the left is student Emi Harlow and on the right raising her hand is AnnaLeigh Lynch.<br/>(Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)

— The fifth-graders flanked the entrance to the Hartford High School gym, a saber arch with iPads instead of swords.

With voice-recording apps at the ready, they set their sights on voters venturing through. And then they pounced.

The query: Why is voting important to you?

It was Question One on a one-question questionnaire yesterday morning, a way for Dothan Brook School students to engage in the election process. Three fifth-grade classes each spent 40 minutes talking to voters as they arrived at the polls, recording answers on tablet computers the school received through a state grant.

“The country is in a lot of trouble right now,” answered one voter.

“Because it’s your constitutional right to vote,” another said.

The students listened, nodded, thanked their interviewees and allowed them to head to the polls.

“I think it’s really important to find out what people think is going on,” said Anna Leigh Lynch, one of the student pollsters.

“It’s kind of for us to see different opinions,” said fifth-grader Jessica Paterson.

Teacher Franklin Burns said his students would use the recordings as primary sources for a writing assignment later in the day.

“They can kind of own what they’re learning,” he said.

This is the first year of a concerted effort to integrate technology into the school’s curriculum, said Amanda Paquette, Dothan Brook’s technology integration specialist. Last year, Paquette met weekly with teachers interested in a “mixed devices” pilot program. Yesterday’s effort was a result of that work.

“The teachers that are involved are excited about using technology,” Paquette said. “The kids are kind of engaged in the election rather than passively learning about it.” At mid-morning, Tayler Simmons and Emi Harlow stood at the front of one of the lines of students, asking all who passed — voters, Hartford High School teachers, newspaper reporters — if they had time to answer a question.

They stopped Rich Kozlowski, a Wilder resident and a vice president at Mascoma Savings Bank.

“Well, it’s our chance to participate in how our communities are run,” Kozlowski said.

Tayler thanked him and stopped the recording. After Kozlowski entered the gym, Tayler and Emi, polling partners for the day, reflected on what they had been told so far, ping-ponging off one another.

“Voting is important because …” Emi said, paused, and let Tayler continue the thought.

“They get a voice …”

“And they get to have a choice …” Emi continued.

“Of who runs our country,” Tayler said.

Jon Wolper can be reached at jwolper@vnews.com or 603-727-3248.