FREDERICTON – Election officials and student groups have launched a concerted effort to get students to vote in next week’s New Brunswick election — including flexible voting rules and the hiring of “election ambassadors” to generate excitement.Chief Electoral Officer Kim Poffenroth said just 44 per cent of people between the ages of 18 and 24 cast their ballots in the 2014 election.“If those individuals continue to vote at the rate they voted at in 2014, we’re going to have a voter turnout well below 50 per cent. We want to get them started earlier and hopefully they will continue,” she said Tuesday.Campus voting stations have been set up at 18 post-secondary institutions for this Monday’s election — up from 13 in 2014 and just four locations during a pilot project in 2010.Poffenroth said Elections NB has produced posters, bookmarks, pencils and other swag as a way to get the message out, while larger campuses have been given grants to hire students as election ambassadors.“The role of these ambassadors will be to raise excitement among the student population and create awareness,” she said.“The sooner you instill that habit of voting, that it’s part of your civic duty but it’s also a privilege, it becomes a habit and they’ll continue to vote.”The New Brunswick Student Alliance has partnered with Elections NB on the four campuses they represent: Mount Allison University, St. Thomas University, and the Saint John and Fredericton campuses of the University of New Brunswick.Emily Blue, executive director of the student alliance, said it’s important that students become engaged in the election process.“The decisions made in this province affect those students quite a bit,” she said.Originally from Prince Edward Island, Blue is voting in her second New Brunswick election.She said the voter turnout among young people in 2014 was very disappointing.“Being able to mobilize those voters is really important in making sure that all the voices are heard and to make sure they have greater participation in the electoral process as they grow up,” she said.New Brunswick students have the choice of voting for candidates in their home community or in the riding where they are living while going to school.Students from outside the province can also vote as long as they meet residency requirements.Students must have lived in New Brunswick for 40 days to vote. That compares to a number of provinces that have a six-month residency requirement, while Saskatchewan has no requirement other than being a resident on the day of the election.Blue said they want a turnout greater than 44 per cent.“We don’t have a target number, we really just want to increase engagement as much as possible. We want to increase the conversation that students are having,” she said.The overall voter turnout in 2014 was 65 per cent.
MONTREAL — While pushing and shoving is often frowned upon in the schoolyard, some Quebec elementary schools are experimenting with the idea of letting their students play rough.At least two schools have announced pilot projects to set up supervised ‘rough play’ zones in the schoolyard, where students can shove, grab and wrestle in the snow to their hearts’ content.Quatre-Vents elementary school in Saint-Apollinaire, Que. is one of the schools to experiment with the idea.On snowy days, a play-fighting zone is outlined by cones, and is subject to strict rules, according to principal Sherley Bernier. Participation has to be voluntary, and kicking, hitting, biting, or throwing objects is strictly forbidden.But kids are allowed to grab each others’ coats and make their opponents fall, as well as to “pile up, to grab each other, to roll on the ground together,” Bernier said in a phone interview.In order to keep things safe, sessions were held to teach kids how to fall without hurting themselves. They were also told that they have to immediately back off if a student says ‘stop,’ Bernier said.She said the school started the project as a way to let rambunctious students get their energy out.“There are certain students for whom it isn’t enough to simply go run in the schoolyard,” she said in a phone interview. “They need a little more to get out their energy.”Bernier said only about 15 students play in the zone each recess period, but the project seems to be having a positive effect on them so far.“We see in class that those children are calmer, and they’re more focused,” she said.Bernier said that while most parents have been supportive of the project, a few have expressed worries. She reminds them that participation is voluntary, and there are plenty of other schoolyard activities for kids to do.Bernier believes that, rather than encouraging violence, the project actually prevents it by showing kids how to expend their energy in an appropriate way.“We’re not seeing (violence), because we ban violence,” she said. “The kids who are there to hit are immediately taken out,” she said.Lenore Skenazy, a New York-based author and speaker who founded the website Free Range Kids, said humans and almost every animal species, have been play-fighting since the dawn of time.“To act like that is automatically aggressive and evil and cruel is to misinterpret a basic stage of childhood,” she said in a phone interview.She said that allowing children to play on their own teaches them valuable lessons, including empathy for peers and how to set rules and negotiate boundaries.“You’re learning how far you can go until someone gets mad, or before it’s too much,” she said.Since Bernier’s school started their project in November, she said she’s received calls from several other school boards who are interested in following suit.One of those, Cheval-Blanc school in Gatineau, Que., announced last week it would be trying its own play fighting zone for children in Grade 3 for the rest of the winter, with similar rules.Bernier said her school is currently getting feedback from students and collecting data in order to paint a fuller picture of who benefits from the project and why.She said there’s little doubt in her mind that it’ll be back next year. “It’s a big success,” she said.Morgan Lowrie, The Canadian Press