Visual: White screen with the Elections Canada logo in the bottom right corner. An animated red line moves across the screen and turns into an X. The X turns sideways, splits and disappears from view. The title, Teaching Mapping Electoral Districts appears on a white background.
Visual: Live action begins with a medium shot of a woman standing behind a table speaking directly to the camera. On the table are several educational materials, such as maps.
Rachel: 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 “Mapping Electoral Districts.” What makes an electoral district fair? That’s the inquiry question that students explore in Mapping Electoral Districts. Students use geographic factors to divide an imaginary country into fair electoral districts.
Visual: The screen splits in two. Rachel is on the right side and remains there throughout the video. On the left side appears an image of the first page of the teacher’s guide, featuring the inquiry question.
Rachel: 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. In this minds on activity, students imagine that they are at a family event to celebrate a grandparent’s birthday. There are seven people at the party: two grandparents, two adults, one 3-year old child and two teenagers. Everyone wants cake!
Ask students: How would you divide the cake fairly? Have students turn and talk with a partner or a small group to solve this problem. They usually have some pretty strong opinions about how to divide the cake!
Visual: The left side of the screen changes to display the minds on section of the teacher’s guide, panning over the instructions, as described by Rachel.
Rachel: It’s a really concrete way to show the difference between equality and equity. Now tell students to imagine that Canada is a giant cake! How would you divide it into 338 pieces? Explain that Canada is divided into 338 electoral districts, or ridings. In each one, voters elect one member of Parliament to represent everyone who lives there. Since the population changes, the number of districts is adjusted every ten years.
Visual: The left side of the screen changes to display a map of Canada’s federal electoral districts. The image pans across the map, showing a diversity of ridings across Canada, both large and small.
Rachel: Now, introduce the inquiry question: What makes an electoral district fair?
Visual: The first page of the teacher’s guide is displayed again, showcasing the inquiry question.
Rachel: When deciding the boundaries of an electoral district in Canada, several factors are considered: the size of the population, geographic features, social factors, like culture and language. Students are now going to consider all of these real factors in dividing up an imaginary country to learn more about the real process.
Start the Activity phase of the lesson by dividing your class into small groups and giving out the maps and info sheet. When you order the kit, you’ll get enough for one classroom working in small groups. You will need to supply your own dry erase markers.
Visual: The activity section of the teacher’s guide is displayed, as explained by Rachel.
Rachel: Here are the materials for each group: main map, three reference maps (population, language and shared history), and the info sheet.
Visual: The graphics change to display the four maps and info sheet, as they are mentioned by Rachel. No details are discernible, but the maps are clearly engaging, colourful and designed for student use.
Rachel: Everything is also available to download and print from our website.
Visual: The web page is displayed, featuring PDF and online versions of several materials. At the bottom of the screen is the URL electionsanddemocracy.ca.
Rachel: Explain that students will apply the concept of fairness to map electoral boundaries on their imaginary country. Students begin by naming their country, then they must work together to divide it into electoral districts that are as fair as possible.
The main map has one district already marked to get them started. They will need to add seven more districts for a total of eight. They can create more if they need to, but they do have to justify their decisions. Students should first consider how to divide the population fairly so that each district has a similar number of people.
Visual: The main map is displayed on the left side of the screen. The map shows an imaginary country, with population markers distributed in various clusters across the country. The country includes land, roads and highways, coastal regions, ferry routes and an island district. Around the island district is a line indicating an historical electoral boundary. There is a space where students can write the name of their country. In the top right corner one boundary has been drawn around a population of 65,000. A banner under this boundary indicates for students to “start here.”
Rachel: They also have to consider the other factors shown on the reference maps.
Visual: The three reference maps are briefly displayed.
Rachel: This work can take a bit of time. Students usually start out by calculating populations and getting familiar with the maps before they get into drawing the boundaries. Make sure you have erasers at the ready – they are going to change their minds lots of times as they work through the process!
Visual: A montage of photographs are displayed, showing students seated in groups, working on their maps.
Rachel: One of my favourite challenges in this activity is the island district with the historical electoral boundary and a low population. Most groups merge that district with another on the mainland to make the population match the others. I’ve often wondered if students in Prince Edward Island would do the same!
Visual: The main map is displayed, zooming into the island district. On the islands, the population markers indicate a population of 3,500 people.
Rachel: Sometimes students just put circles around the population markers without considering that citizens also live in these areas that look “empty” because there are no population markers. This is a great learning opportunity to help students understand how maps use symbols to represent reality.
Visual: The main map is still displayed, now zooming over areas of the map with no population markers, such as areas around the mountains.
Rachel: Where they draw the electoral boundaries can tell you a lot about their geographic thinking! There are no right or wrong answers in this activity and every group’s map will look different. It is a complex task that requires strong collaboration and communication skills.
Visual: Two photographs of students’ completed maps are displayed, one after the other. The areas where both groups of students have chosen to draw their boundaries have slight differences.
Rachel: If you want to help your students improve those skills, you can use the assessment rubric that we provide with each lesson as a starting point.
Visual: The left side of the screen changes to display the assessment rubric for this lesson. The rubric includes competencies such as applying critical thinking skills, and using collaborative group learning skills.
Rachel: Some groups are bound to finish before others. You can always extend their learning by giving them one of the wild cards we provide as an extension that brings in more real-life geographic challenges!
Visual: The visuals change to display three wild cards. Each includes a paragraph of text, and is bordered by a dotted line to help teachers cut out and distribute the cards.
Rachel: Once everyone is finished their map, have students post their maps on the wall and have them share their thinking with the other groups and see how their maps are similar and different.
Visual: The consolidation section of the teacher’s guide is displayed, highlighting information as described by Rachel.
Rachel: There are a lot of ways to manage this activity to make sure everyone stays engaged.
Visual: Another photograph of a student’s finished map is displayed.
Rachel: I like to use a “Stay and Stray” protocol. Some students stay behind at their own map, while others visit, then they switch halfway through. This protocol gives students the chance to both explain their own group’s thinking and to consider other ways of thinking.
Once they’ve returned to their own group, ask students to share with the class what they observed about the other maps. There are so many ways to solve this puzzle, that it is pretty unlikely that two groups will choose the exact same divisions.
Next, you can show the video “Interview with an Elections Canada Geographer.” Joanne Geremian explains her role in the real process of mapping federal electoral boundaries. This short video introduces students to an interesting career in geography and shows them the impacts that real-life geographers can have!
Visual: The left side of the screen changes to display a montage of scenes from a video. The video is in a workplace setting. Two people stand together, looking at a map. Then, a large, colourful map is printing from a printer. The two people look at the map together, pointing at different areas. The map of Canada’s federal electoral districts is then shown. Finally, two riding maps of Alberta are shown, side by side. One displays the 2003 boundaries and the other, the 2013 boundaries. Comparing the two maps shows that the boundaries have changed from one decade to the next.
Rachel: After the video, students return to the inquiry question and complete the exit card to reflect on their learning. Students now understand that our federal process of mapping electoral districts considers many factors to make sure that it’s as fair as possible.
Visual: The left side of the screen changes to display the exit card handout. On it, students are given several factors (such as population equality) and asked to rate them by level of importance on a scale of 1 to 5.
Rachel: What I love about this lesson is that it makes a complex topic really engaging and easy to understand. Students can also gain a deeper appreciation that our elections are closely related to our geography, and hopefully they can start to see their own place in our democracy.
We want to know if your students liked the activity. Share your experience and photos on our Twitter and Facebook accounts!
Visual: The screen fades to white and a clip art image of a student in a graduation cap is set against a red circle. A speech bubble appears above the head of the student and a red heart appears in the speech bubble. The Facebook and Twitter logos appear on screen with the handles @democracyCA.