Most local secondary-school students aren't old enough to vote, but they're still developing a passion for politics.
Dozens of schools throughout Long Island hosted election-themed events in recent weeks to educate students on the campaign process and the importance of voting.
High schoolers in Long Beach were invited to tour the Hofstra University site of the Oct. 16 presidential debate between President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. They also attended a lecture by political analyst Chris Matthews of MSNBC's "Hardball" and visited C-Span's Campaign 2012 Tour Bus, which demonstrates how the channel produces and broadcasts its segments.
"My students agreed it was the best field trip they had ever been on," Long Beach social studies teacher Jen Quinn said. "We were so fortunate to be so close to history in the making."
In Locust Valley, Portledge School hosted a mock debate in which students vied for the roles of president, vice president, and secretaries of state, treasury, defense, commerce and energy for both the Democratic and Republican parties. The school's history classes researched campaign issues ranging from the national debt to unemployment.
In East Islip, 15 middle schoolers facing off in the school's 2012-13 student government elections created video speeches to relay their campaign platforms to classmates. The videos were made under the guidance of the high school's technology teacher, James Connell.
In Bayport, Kiddie Kampus West, a nursery school and day-care, had kids vote for Mickey Mouse or Donald Duck in specially designed booths to introduce them to the voting process.
Twenty-five students in Edmund W. Miles Middle School's National Junior Honor Society recently began serving as mentors through a unique pen-pal program with sixth-graders at Park Avenue Memorial Elementary School.
The program allows younger students to build friendships before they enter middle school next year.
Miles pupils also visited the elementary school last month to discuss the middle school's daily expectations and activities and offer other "words of wisdom," district officials said.
"Our students learn through this initiative that they are a part of the Amityville school district family, and it is important that they help and support students from all of the schools within our district," said Carlee Wallenstein, adviser of Miles' National Junior Honor Society.
Family driving challenge
Deer Park High School recently educated the school community on the dangers of distracted driving by challenging teens, parents and teachers to navigate cone-lined lanes while encountering everyday driving distractions -- ranging from talking on a cellphone to handling rowdy passengers. The event was presented by Allstate Insurance Co.
"It is imperative that we as a district are proactive in keeping students safe, whether they be in a classroom or on a road," principal James Cummings said.
Lesson in local laws
Earl L. Vandermeulen High School students in Philip Giannusa's law classes were treated to a lesson on local laws last month during a visit from Suffolk County Police Officer Stephani Dwyer, who works as a resource officer for the Port Jefferson, Miller Place, Mount Sinai and Sachem school districts.
During the visit, teens were educated on the differing rights of adults and minors, as well as the importance of making safe choices with regard to partying, peer pressure and texting.
"I want students to recognize me as a friendly face they can trust," Dwyer said. "My biggest thing is confidentiality and for kids to realize they can confide in me and not have to worry."
ExploraVision, a K-12 science and technology competition, announced it is accepting entries for 2013, with a deadline of Jan. 31.
The competition requires student teams to incorporate scientific principles and current technologies in designing inventions that could exist 20 years from now. It is sponsored by Toshiba in partnership with the National Science Teachers Association.
This year's contest includes several different elements. Students must define a limitation of the technology upon which their idea is based. In addition, teams must create a webpage depicting a visual representation of the technology that could be used to create a prototype.
First-place teams will receive a $10,000 U.S. savings bond, and second-place teams will receive a $5,000 savings bond.
Applications are available online at exploravision.org.