Updated: October 27, 2020 08:56 AM
Created: October 20, 2020 06:51 PM
Teaching high school students about politics wasn't coming easy for teacher Eric Nelson.
"This project started in my classroom and I was looking for a way to connect students to the world," he recalled.
Creating a lesson plan, he found himself scanning his phone for information during his fantasy football draft.
"I was drafting players so I was in control of the content and then I was reading and learning and researching news, and legitimate news, because I had to have the best information to make decisions about a lineup, and that's how it all started," he said.
He created FANschool, with many games and tools for students and classrooms, one of which is called the election challenge.
"In this election challenge, picture a March Madness-type contest where instead of a bracket you have a U.S. map," Nelson described.
Students draft states they want to learn more about, then research those states.
"My two states are Michigan and Idaho. In Michigan, it's a lot more big state news and in Idaho, it's more local level town news versus big issues," said Miles, a high school student at North Lakes Academy Charter School.
"Thinking about America, it's so big and diverse, so narrowing down on two states it allows you to dig deeper into what the issues are that are so important to the people," explained classmate Haley.
The knowledge gained will help the students present a profile to their class, and following polls, the class will then give an educated guess on which presidential candidate will win that state.
"I only offer this course every four years and it makes the students feel like they are a part of something special," explained North Lakes Academy Charter School teacher Chris Stewart.
In the 2016 election, more than 10,000 students around the country took part in the election challenge on FANschool; the numbers are expected to top that this election.
"I think the best stuff happens in spaces where we just let students play, pursue their passions and stay curious," Nelson said.
The students in Stewart's class say the election challenge has been a great way to learn.
"I really like staying informed and I like having that be a part of my learning process and a part of school, it's very cool," James said.
"Students always find it way more interesting when they get to dive in and explore something that they are really passionate about," added classmate Dakoda.
Nelson says thousands of students and classes are signing up for the election challenge each day on FANschool. The top student predictor will win a $1,000 prize, as will the top student publisher on the FANschool site.
Nelson says in 2016, a ninth-grade student in Indiana and a teacher in Michigan both out-predicted even the top political experts and analysts across the country.
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