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Statistics Students Get a Civics Lesson on Election Day

Nov. 10, 2022  — On Election Day, students in advanced statistics put their class lessons about polling, voting, and elections into action by conducting exit polls with voters at the city of Greenfield’s voting site.

In advanced statistics, students apply skills in data analysis — including methods of data collection and interpretation — to explore current social justice topics and systemic inequities in the world, said teacher Tiffany Thiri. 

In units on experimental design, sampling methods, and inferential statistics, students have been studying elections in the United States. Students also set up an information table in the dining hall to educate their peers about the midterm elections, ballot questions, and the importance of voting. 

The field trip to Greenfield was designed to extend students’ understanding of these concepts and help them engage in the voting process in a meaningful way, Thiri said.

NMH students share information about elections and the voting process at a table in Alumni Hall.

“There is no better way for students to really feel the importance of voting as a part of civic engagement than to visit the polls,” Thiri said.

“Learning about voting and political parties was really interesting to me because it was something that I’ve never really talked about in depth or seriously,” Lillian Zhang ’24 said. “I’d never been to a polling place. Now I feel like I know about the voting process and [am] confident to discuss elections.”

The majority of people she approached in Greenfield were amenable to talking to her, especially after she introduced herself as an NMH student doing a class project, Zhang added. 

“They were interested to see younger people being active or involved in the process,” she said. 

Students used a script to ask voters four questions: 

  • What is your age? 
  • What party are you registered with? 
  • Which candidate for governor did you vote for? 
  • How did you vote on ballot question 1, the proposed amendment to the constitution regarding additional tax on income over $1 million? 

“Students will use the data to help them make inferences about the wider population; to discuss the efficacy, or lack thereof, of polling; and to strategize methods for improving polling results in the future,” Thiri said.

Jason Sang ’23 said his initial nervousness about approaching strangers dissipated quickly.

“I felt excited to be able to dive into this data and interact with people, to talk to people and find out more about a process that can really change the world,” he said. “It was an important experience, and I want to give a shout out to Tiffany because she did a really great job of preparing us and giving us the opportunity to go.”

Students ask a voter to answer questions for an exit poll for statistics.

The 10 NMH students who traveled to Greenfield also toured the voting site in the Greenfield High School gymnasium, guided by Assistant City Clerk Quinn Jaquins and Rachel Roberts, a poll worker who is an NMH alum from the Class of 1989, as well as the parent of a 2021 graduate.

Roberts, who lives in Greenfield, said when she learned students from her alma mater would be visiting the polls, she jumped at the chance to meet them. 

“I’ve always been very civic minded, and a lot of that comes from my time at NMH,” Roberts said. “I shared why it’s important to me to be a poll worker. I told them I was so proud to see NMH students there to see democracy in action. They put themselves out there by asking our community members questions. They’re not looking at statistics. They’re dealing with people.”

“It was a pleasure meeting the students, showing them around, and telling them all about elections,” Jaquins said. “It is such a pivotal democratic process. It’s a great learning opportunity for them, not just to do the polling, but to see civic engagement.”

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