A `super' opportunity for a teachable moment

The Education Beat

Election: While serving as a polling place on Super Tuesday, Ruxton Country School offers its pupils a valuable lesson in civics.

March 08, 2000|By Mike Bowler | Mike Bowler,SUN STAFF

YESTERDAY was a great day to learn about politics and elections. Too bad Baltimore area public schools wasted it.

Not so Ruxton Country School. The private school in Owings Mills was an official polling place in the Maryland primary. While their parents voted in the school gymnasium, Ruxton pupils cast their own ballots unofficially as part of a schoolwide civics program that will run through the general election this fall.

The two enterprises -- education and politics -- coexisted nicely. True, teachers wore name badges, security was beefed up, physical education had to be relocated, and some voters had to walk a longer distance than they expected.

But those annoyances were worth the chance to conduct "a living exercise in democracy," said Ruxton's head, Stephanie Fisher.

A few adult voters stopped by to chat with their kids' teachers, while the children got a chance to watch poll-watchers watch polls.

"They see their parents voting, and at the same time they're voting. It's the most elemental form of education," said Paul H. Loughlin, the chief of Ruxton's middle school.

I conducted my own "exit polling" among fifth-, seventh- and eighth-graders and found a few young voters parting company from Mom and Dad.

Justin Werthamer, 13, said he was voting Republican "because I like the Republican stands on some of the issues. I like the idea of posting the Ten Commandments in the classroom."

Mallory Werthamer, 10, said her choice was George W. Bush. "His father was president," said Mallory, "and his father can tell him stuff. He can tell him what to do when he's in trouble."

Another Bush voter, Heather Zink, 11, said her mother told her, "Bush's father was a really good president. He'll help more than Clinton has."

Then there was 11-year-old Seth Plaschkes, a fifth-grader. "I'd vote for Lincoln, but he's dead," said Seth.

Votes were tabulated after school yesterday, and Bush won comfortably over John McCain, 52 percent to 36 percent. Long-shot candidate Alan Keyes got a surprising 11 percent of the Ruxton vote.

Democrats gave Vice President Al Gore 55 percent of the vote to Bill Bradley's 44 percent.

Fisher said "George Washington" will visit the school in May, and a writing contest, geography lessons, lessons about voters' rights and a sleep-over on election night in November are planned.

Three Beth Tfiloh students score 1,600 on SAT

When SAT scoring was "recentered" a few years ago, it became slightly easier for students to achieve the highest possible score, 1,600.

But it's still quite a feat: Only one student in 2,500 hits the top score in the important college entrance exam.

So, it's well worth remarking that three students at Beth Tfiloh High School in Pikesville scored 1,600 on the SAT this year. Juniors Daniel Stern and Elnatan Reisner are in a class of 67. Senior Seth Zonies has 36 classmates.

Four years ago, two Beth Tfiloh students scored 1,600. Lisa Exler, who co-wrote a book on SAT preparation, is a senior at Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass. Daniel Kokotov is a senior at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Pride of Baltimore II to welcome `teacher aboard'

Here's a dream assignment.

The State Department of Education has opened competition for a Christa McAuliffe Fellowship. The winner will be "teacher aboard" the Pride of Baltimore II when the ship visits the Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Ireland and Portugal for three months in the fall.

Maryland's first McAuliffe winner, science teacher Leslie Anne Bridgett of Westlake High School in Waldorf, sailed with the Pride on a voyage to Asia two years ago.

The application deadline is March 31.

Candidates can download the application form from the Pride's Web site, www.pride2.org.

Proposed funding would improve playgrounds

Last year, I reported on the deplorable condition of many city school playgrounds. Relief might be on the way.

Legislation in the General Assembly would appropriate $500,000 to improve 10 Baltimore playgrounds, six of them at city elementary schools: Thomas Jefferson, Violetville, Robert W. Coleman, Margaret Brent, Harford Heights and Garrett Heights.

If the state money is approved, the city would have to raise $500,000 to match it.

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