The 2020 Election is inescapable, which means that it is also looming large in the lives of youth. Elections are a great opportunity to introduce young people to one of the most important and powerful rights we have as Americans, the right to vote.
It can be hard to navigate these discussions when the environment is just so divided. But our roles as youth development professionals in the Club space is not to be partisan, or to campaign for any candidate, but to guide youth in understanding the process, their role in it, and how to learn about and advocate for the causes they are passionate about.
BGCA has lots of resources for every level of your Club, from the organizational level down to activity plan, with more coming the closer we get to November. To make it easy, I’ll sort them here by targeted age group, plus the higher policy level. I’ll keep this post updated with the latest, so be sure to bookmark it!
We are thrilled to be an official partner of Power the Polls, an organization working to recruit poll workers for Election Day. If you’ve voted in person, I’m sure you’ve noticed that a large number of poll workers are often elderly, putting them at higher risk of COVID complications this year. Younger workers, including teens in many districts, can help ensure the election is safe, fair, and efficient. Guidelines for age requirements and possible pay (!!!) vary by district, so sign up through the site to learn more. I can’t say it more passionately than The Daily Show’s Trevor Noah!
The brand new Youth For Change badge, sponsored by the NFL Foundation, has a bunch of activities focused on helping youth to find their passions and then link them to action, including in the election and advocacy spheres. For example, in Fact or Fake, youth will learn how to identify credible information. For youth who love art and photography, Photo Advocate will help them learn how to harness that love for civic good. And in Vote to Make a Difference, youth will learn about voter registration and why it is so important. And there are more! MyFuture is perfect for both in-person and virtual activities, and has recently undergone huge upgrades, so be sure to check it out.
Another of our national partners is National Voter Registration Day, which will take place on September 22. This is a fun opportunity to align what your Club posts on social media with activities in your Club. If you have members who are 18, or even down to 16 in some states, you can help them get registered. Plus? Get those staff members registered too! Learn more about how to promote the day at their site, including links to learn your local election guidelines and polling locations.
You know I can’t have a resource list without BOOKS. We often focus on stocking picture books for younger readers, but there are lots of great books about elections and civic engagement for teens as well. This list specifically is YA books publishing this year, but check out this filterable list from A Mighty Girl (more info below) for older titles.
For Younger Youth
SPEAKING OF BOOKS, here are a couple of lists of amazing picture books that would be perfect for reading aloud or to feature on the bookshelf. Also ask your local children’s librarian for what they have in their catalog. If you would like to target a specific topic or age group, A Mighty Girl has these amazing filterable lists of books on Civics and Government, as well as on varying Social Issues.
While not election-specific, SMART Girls in Action provides guided steps and resources for SMART Girls groups to create and implement a community service project. SMART Girls in Action blends what girls learn during the SMART Girls targeted program with skills from the Leadership & Service core program area. This provides girls with fulfilling experiences that enable them to give back to their community and get comfortable with leadership skills. Participant and Facilitator’s Guides available at BGCA.net.
This is a cute mock election kit designed for first graders, but could be used up to I’d say about 3rd. She sells the printables at a reasonable price, but you could totally recreate the parts you want to use if you don’t want to spend.
I love iCivics so much I wrote a whole blog post about it, but its a website designed to teach civics through online games. They have a whole elections section of their website, including lesson plans and games and webquests. This would work both for in-person and virtual programming.
For your Club
2020 Election Toolkit
BGCA’s Government Relations team put together an up-to-date Election season toolkit as well as an accompanying webinar training to inform Clubs and Alliances on how they can legally engage in election season and voter engagement in 2020 and beyond. It is key that Club leadership read this guide, because missteps can land you in hot water.
Catalyst for Change Advocacy Network
BGCA’s Catalyst for Change Advocacy Network connects advocates to officials at the local, state and federal levels on critical issues impacting youth right when their voices are needed most. Club advocates can use this digital platform to contact elected officials, look up legislators, research legislation, send letters to the editor, launch a social campaign and more. Learn more and sign up for alerts at votervoice.net/BGCA/Register.