Joseph Navarro, a 4th grader at Endhaven Elementary here, said he has been learning a lot about the Democratic National Convention and politics this week. But when he heard how easy it was to get tickets to see President Barack Obama address the convention Thursday night, he had a particularly strong reaction.
"They're free to the public? You've got to be kidding me," he exclaimed.
(Unfortunately, as it turned out for Joseph, the speech was moved out of the Bank of America Stadium and closed to the public due to what Democratic officials said were weather concerns.)
His teacher, Ted Miracle, was using the convention's proximity as an opportunity to examine its impact on the students' community from a variety of angles, and to compare Charlotte's experience to Tampa's during the Republican National Convention last week.
The principal at Endhaven, Rhonda Gomez, said that previously the school "soft-taught" issues surrounding politics. But the school has made more of an effort recently to tie politics to school service projects that serve Endhaven's surrounding area, such as canned food drives and visits to assisted living centers. Students are also looking at ways that politics can be used to resolve conflicts, she said.
"You begin to look at people who have less, and who have no jobs," she said.
Students examined the political parties' 2008 platforms earlier in the week, Miracle said, and found something consistent with Gomez's comment about conflict resolution: "We looked for similarities and differences. We found a remarkable number of similarities."
Later in the week, the students were planning to make speeches as representatives of state delegations, and also to deliver acceptance speeches as if they were Obama or Republican nominee Mitt Romney.
Miracle talked to students about how they could learn about politics and all aspects of the convention in a way that he never could as a child with a television that only got two channels and other traditional media.
"It's not just the newspaper. It's the iPad. It's the Internet. It's the iPhone. It's all stuff that didn't even exist a few years ago," he told his class.
For the class, however, the students divided into six groups and used good old-fashioned markers and paper. Each group took on a convention-related issue, such as business, security, the news coverage, and (perhaps the most obvious issue of all for the students) traffic.
Joseph's group tackled the business impact by looking through news coverage of the conventions in Tampa as well as Charlotte. On the one hand, his group discovered that Tampa reportedly enjoyed a $100 million business boost from the Republican convention in August (although half of that came from federal government in the form of a public safety grant) leading to thoughts from the group that Tampa might be interested in hosting more and bigger such conventions down the road.
On the other hand, Joseph noted that with all the jumbled and redirected traffic in Charlotte's Uptown district, some businesses might not be particularly happy that the convention came to town. This was the kind of connection between the topics Miracle was hoping his students would make.
"Maybe their street was closed and maybe they had to close their business," Joseph said, adding later that he was surprised by all the vendors of "Obamawear" (Joseph's word) in the streets when he visited the convention, another example of the convention's financial impact on Charlotte.