Teaching "Geography of Elections" - Video Transcript

Hi, my name is Rachel Collishaw. I’m a teacher and education specialist at Elections Canada. In this video, I’ll be showing you how you can teach “Geography of Elections.” 

What is my federal electoral community? How does it compare to others? Those are the inquiry questions that students explore in Geography of Elections

They compare the geographic features of their own riding to another one using maps and fact sheets. We start with the Minds on, the first part of the three-part lesson structure that’s embedded in all of our activities. These first 5 minutes help students connect their own experiences to the big idea of the lesson. It should just take a few minutes as a starter before the main learning. 

In this minds on activity, students think about the communities that they are a part of already. They can start by writing individually, and then share their ideas with a partner. Ask some partners to share their ideas with the class. 

Students might share that they are part of sports teams or gaming groups, neighbourhoods or faith communities. Having students share their ideas with a partner first can help students feel safe and comfortable in this activity.

Next, explain that students are part of a community that elects a representative to Parliament. That community has a few different names, but they all describe the same thing: Aan electoral district, a riding or a constituency. 

Now, you can introduce the inquiry questions and explain that students will be using maps and data to find out some answers.

To start the Activity part of the lesson, examine the Federal Electoral Districts map and the Map of the official results. You’ll get both of these wall maps when you order the kit. The results map in particular is really engaging for both students and teachers!

Start with some map literacy review. Divide your students into groups and have them take turns examining the maps with these questions in mind.

Once they’ve had a chance to discuss the questions, ask if they can locate the electoral district of your school and have them place a pin or sticky note on it. 

While they’re still at the map, ask what they notice about your electoral district. Then, explain that they’re going to work in small groups to learn more by examining the fact sheet for your electoral district. 

Let’s take a closer look at the fact sheets. Here’s my riding: Ottawa Centre. I can see right away on the map that it’s urban and surrounded by other urban ridings. I can also see that the boundaries of my riding follow both natural features, like rivers and artificial features like roads.

The fact sheet also contains information from Statistics Canada about the residents of the riding. They can see how many people live in the area, whether the population is growing or shrinking, young or aging, and the average income. 

We also included language information so that students can get a sense of the people who live in their own riding. After all, they are really trying to understand their electoral community.

All 338 riding fact sheets are available on our website for you to download and print out. They each have a map of the riding, and exactly the same set of data, so they can easily be compared. That’s what your students are going to do next.

First of all, give each group of students a fact sheet from your school’s electoral district. Then give them a new fact sheet from a different electoral district. You know your students and your curriculum best, so you can choose the ridings next door, or the ones furthest away, or whatever ones you like! If you don’t know where to start, you can use the six fact sheets in the teachers’ guide that we chose to show how diverse our ridings really are. 

You can use a variety of electoral districts for a richer discussion, but if your students are language learners, they might be better able to participate if they all look at the same comparison district. 

You can also use the Helpful Vocabulary guide for students who might need it.

Students can return now to the big maps to show where the new electoral districts are in relation to their own. Then, they can work together in their small groups to examine the new electoral district and complete the comparison chart. 

Once students have discussed, compared and agreed, have each group share back some of their findings with the class to start the Consolidation phase of the lesson. Here is one question you can ask to start the discussion: Do you know how many people these districts each send to Parliament? This is a bit of a trick question – we want students to remember that only one person represents everyone that lives in that district, whether they voted for them or not.

How many districts do you think there are? The answer is 338! We want students to understand that Parliament is made up of all of these people who represent all of the citizens and make decisions on your behalf.

Of the two districts you compered, which one is easiest to represent? Why? This question can lead to such rich discussion – if your riding is dense and urban, you can probably travel around it pretty easily on public transit, but if it’s large and rural, you’ll need to drive long distances, fly, or even snowmobile to get to all of it! And that’s on top of the travel to Ottawa to sit in Parliament! On the other hand, a dense urban riding could have lots of people speaking many languages that are not English or French, where a rural riding could be less diverse. There are so many other ideas that students can pull out of this relatively simple activity, and you’ll get a little insight into some of their learning by having them use the exit card to reflect individually. 

Reflective writing is an important part of the learning process, especially in a lesson with as much activity and discussion as this one. Students are learning to think about their learning. In my class, I like to use reflective journals so they have a record of how their thinking changes over time. Elections Canada provides the maps and the student-friendly data, but you can take the lesson wherever you need to go. The goal is to help students to become informed citizens and future voters who understand their own electoral communities.

We want to know if your students liked the activity. Share your experience and photos on our Twitter and Facebook accounts!