Every four years, the first Tuesday in November is kind of a big deal.

In the months leading up to the presidential election, news organizations and partisan pundits cover the race to the White House in hopes of informing or swaying the public on who sits in the Oval Office. The majority of K-12 students in this country can’t vote on who becomes the next President of the United States. But the policies set forth by every politician elected to office affect the lives of everyone in the country, regardless of age.

Engage 2012 is an initiative to involve the nation’s youth in the democratic process. Our challenge, open to residents of the United States and its territories currently enrolled in a K-12 program—whether public, private, parochial or otherwise—aims to educate students about the importance of civic engagement through a demonstration of basic journalistic practice.

K-12 participants are tasked with shooting, editing and submitting up to three two-minute videos that are journalistic in nature and support a meaningful dialogue about a variety of issues that will be addressed in the upcoming election. In creating their entries, we hope participants learn the importance of media ethics, accountability, accuracy and the role they play in the national dialogue surrounding six topics:

+Voter turnout
+Jobs and the economy
+Education reform
+Energy and the environment

Each of these key issues will be discussed by candidates during this election cycle. Our hope is that participants’ entries will inspire meaningful discourse that revolve around these topics. Just because the majority of K-12 students can’t vote doesn’t mean they can’t participate in the democratic process.

After all, they have just as much at stake in this election as anyone else.

As an educator, you can help by spreading the word about the challenge via word of mouth, social networking, or classroom announcements and workshops, and allowing your class to participate in our Googe + hangouts and Adobe Webinars, which will be announced shortly. Teach your students that their stories can have an impact.

Why participate?

Whether you teach a group of 10 students or 100, there are a multitude of reasons why your classroom should participate in the challenge:

+Engage 2012 coincides with the election, so the challenge can be incorporated into lesson plans about government and democracy.
+Students will build their technical skills as they get first-hand experience with the same tools used by professionals in the media industry.
+In order to produce a quality entry, students must research the issues discussed during this election cycle, providing an excellent opportunity to introduce them to civic engagement.
+Because students produce a piece based on their own interest, they gain a greater understanding of the topics most discussed among the American public.
+Participation creates the perfect entry point for a meaningful discussion regarding hot political issues that will shape your students’ futures for years to come.
+The two-minute time limit on entries means their messages must be clear and concise, a valuable concept for anyone wishing to pursue a profession in media, or simply improve their communication skills.

Interested? Here are 10 ways you can bring Engage 2012 into your classroom or community organization.