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Explaining the presidential race in school

U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Fayetteville, North Carolina March 9, 2016. Picture taken March 9, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake - RTSA4GH
U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Fayetteville, North Carolina March 9, 2016. Picture taken March 9, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake - RTSA4GH(WDTV)
Published: Aug. 17, 2016 at 6:40 PM EDT
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As kids get back into the swing of the school year, the election season is heating up.

At Nutter Fort Intermediate School, students will participate in a mock election. They will follow the presidential race as it progresses.

"We just encourage them to stay open-minded and to listen to both sides, and then to come to their own conclusions on what they think is important and how it affects them," said Lillie Junkins, a fifth grade teacher at Nutter Fort Intermediate School.

But when weighing their options, are kids paying attention to some of the rhetoric from the candidates?

"There is a 24-hour news cycle, there's always something," said Dr. Mark Manchin, superintendent of Harrison County schools. "When these kids go home and they're watching the news or just sitting around, they're immersed."

"Children do it with any type of media," said Dr. Amy Root, associate professor of Child Development & Family Studies at West Virginia University. "If they're listening to the news, they very well could echo back what they've heard on television or radio."

Personal attacks have been thrown around frequently on the campaign trail. Faculty say that when they talk about politics, it's hard not to acknowledge the current political climate--even with nine or ten-year-olds.

"They've seen things that have happened that maybe aren't the most upstanding," said Junkins. "So, they come to their own conclusions about those things. But, to expose them to any current event is good."

Dr. Root says that teachers and parents should work in tandem when discussing current events with kids.

"If they're in a civics class and they're talking about an election year, then the parents can maybe engage their child in a similar sort of rhetoric," said Dr. Root.

Dr. Manchin agrees that controversy on the campaign trail can sometimes serve a purpose in the classroom.

"We refer to it as 'teachable moments,' said Dr. Manchin. "If a student says something inappropriate because they heard it on TV--and students are very impressionable--our job, and that of the parent, we try to encourage them to treat people with respect, be courteous of other people, and be courteous of other peoples' differences."

For more of 5 News' Mike Valente's conversation with Dr. Manchin, watch the video above.

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