Sammamish High School Students Get Turn at Presidential Election

Sammamish High School students in teacher Katie Piper's AP U.S. Government class get a hands-on turn at the elections, with a class-wide project that simulates the various aspects of a U.S. presidential campaign.

A Sammamish High School A.P. Government class mirrors real life -- with campaign posters, two candidates with idealistic promises and walls papered with articles from "MSNBC" and "Fox News."

But the world of the campaign of "President Belle Washington" and "Gov. Mike Lu" is a project of A.P. U.S. Government teacher Katie Piper, to give students the flavor of the inner workings of an American presidential campaign. 

With the year-long presidential campaign between President Barack Obama and challenger former Gov. Mitt Romney as a backdrop in real life -- including the Republican candidate debates which coincided with last school year's spring quarter -- Piper's class takes on the inner workings of a campaign by re-enacting one in the classroom.

The class-wide project helps students understand American campaigns through their assignments, which include being candidates, the candidates' staff members, the press and the swing state voters. The students even portray the major national press, with a press conference and stories written about the candidates.

Piper said through the role-playing, the students get an idea of the influence of money, the role of parties in the political process, the role of the media and voting behavior. Piper even asks for the students to report their "campaign spending," to get an idea of the influence of money on the election and to get a taste of some of the records required when running a political campaign.

The students who participated based their roles off of their real-life counterparts, though they brought a lot of their own ideas to their roles instead of copying the exact moves and positions of Obama and Romney.

"I definitely created a character, and I incorporated by own beliefs," said Dennis Chau, 17, who portrayed Republican challenger "Gov. Mike Lu" in Piper's first period class.

Aya Mears, 17, who portrayed incumbent "President Belle Washington," said that she portrayed a lot of her own political beliefs but also reacted to what was currently going on the real presidential race.

"I had to go off what was going on in the news as well," Mears said. 

She said that she got a little taste of what it was like to go in front of a press corps -- and what it was like to compromise on a platform in order to get those crucial electoral votes.

"I had to 'suck up' to the swing states," Mears said.

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