America Informed

Class challenges, offers BV students knowledge of national election

In the 2016 fall semester, Blue Valley sophomores, juniors and seniors had the opportunity to enroll in America Decides the National Election, taught by social studies teachers Adam Bien and Kristoffer Barikmo.

“Our main goal is to make informed voters,” Bien said. “[High schoolers] are impressionable, and we want you to be able to know why you believe what you do and be able to back it up with evidence.”

The class is offered in the years coinciding with the presidential election.

“Every four years, things can change in American society,” Bien said. “[As a teacher,] you have your general resources that you’re going to use, but you are going to have to modify them to make it specific to the election.”

The class is also heavily student-driven, Bien said.

“[Barikmo and I] always say that our role is not necessarily the teacher in this class,” he said. “We are more of the facilitator and let the class explore the topics.”

Bien said students will run a mock election for the school.

“[Students] also have opportunities to go to the elementary and middle schools and teach about the election process,” he said.

America Decides was offered during the last election cycle in 2012, and Bien said the class influenced former students in different ways.

“We see a lot more political science majors going into colleges as a result of this class,” Bien said. “We have a lot more students going out and being a global citizen — whether it’s working on exit polls, being an election day worker or helping teach younger kids about the election process.”

This is the first year that freshmen were not allowed to enroll.

“Freshmen will have an opportunity their senior year, second semester to take America Decides and cover the primaries,” Bien said.

Students will be challenged to keep an open mind, he said.

“We hear a lot of ignorant comments out there,” Bien said. “This class helps break down those barriers and helps students express their opinions intelligently and back it up with evidence.”