Juniorwahl: High School Students Explore Democratic Principles

The German federal election was one of the main topics of discussion in September 2021, and not just in Germany. At German International School Boston, students in grades 9 to 11 actively engaged with the topic by participating in the Juniorwahl (Junior Elections), a German initiative that teaches the importance of free elections and democratic principles and raises political awareness in schools.

After in-depth preparations, students participate in a mock election parallel to state, federal, or European elections. Established in 1999, ‘Juniorwahl’ invites all schools to actively participate and is one of the largest school projects in Germany. Several thousand schools in Germany and abroad signed up for this year’s federal election ‘Juniorwahl’, including 60 German International Schools Abroad.

In Social Studies, Ethics, and History, GISB students learned in an interdisciplinary manner. They discussed fundamental questions, such as “What is the role of the German Bundestag?” “Why is voting important?” and “How do you vote?” Students researched German candidates and political parties, analyzed election advertising, and ultimately took part in the 2021 junior election. They also produced short videos explaining how the German federal election works and published them in German, English, and Spanish. A grade 10 student says about the project, “Juniorwahl was an important project for me because I learned to enjoy discussing politics. I used to think politics is boring, but now I can talk to my grandpa for hours about politics, something I have never done before.”

Students set up a polling station, which raised awareness for the election by displaying posters with learning outcomes. On September 23, all GISB’s high school students cast their vote in the junior election, overseen by the student electoral committee of grade 11. The election results were sent to Germany on the same day, where they were included in the overall statistics for the junior election. The results of the junior election were published on the day of the actual federal election, September 26. Detailed results from all participating schools can be found on the ‘Juniorwahl’ website.  

A student summarizes the project, “Juniorwahl was a great project! It felt like a real election. Every student had the chance to learn about the German parties and candidates and make an informed decision for whom to vote.”

By Maren Wiederrecht and Claudia Weber