PEPPERELL -- Students at Varnum Brook Elementary School got a crash course in voting Tuesday morning, when they held an election to choose the shape the town will use for next year's dog tags.
For the second year in a row, fourth-grade students spent a week campaigning for their choice of four shapes to be used for the tags.
The dog tags, which are required for all dogs across Massachusetts, are distributed every spring, and a new shape is chosen each year in Pepperell.
This year's choices were a badge, a crown, a heart and a circle with stars engraved on it.
The badge won by a landslide, garnering more than 70 percent of the vote, while the crown received no votes.
Students worked as volunteers, checking their classmates in and out, putting votes into the ballot box and counting the results.
The election was suggested by Town Clerk Jeffrey Sauer, and planned with the help of fourth-grade teacher Michelle Pinkerton.
Sauer instructed students on the voting process and directed the volunteers on how to do their jobs.
"I love seeing the kids engaged and knowing they can be part of the community and do something for the community. There's nothing better than looking at them and seeing the wheels turning," Sauer said.
Police Chief David Scott also contributed, watching over the ballot box to ensure the election was fair.
Varnum Brook Principal Dr. Pauline Cormier said the school frequently tries to offer its fourth-graders opportunities for leadership and decision-making, as the oldest students in the school.
She said the election offers both of these opportunities and shows a sense of unity between the school and Town Hall.
"It's an example of the town working together, and it provides children a chance to display leadership. It gives them a sense of importance, to be making a decision that is far-reaching," Cormier said.
Fourth-grade teacher Donna Falsey said her students were engaged in the election from the day it was introduced, making posters and talking about their choices.
"It's been amazing. They're so excited to be deciding for the town as leaders in the school," Falsey said.
Students said they were excited to vote in the election because of how real it was.
"It's fun to know what you are voting for but not what other people are voting for," said fourth-grade student Brooks Carmichael.
Many students said the process was similar to when they went to vote with their parents in town elections.
"The way you had to check in, it felt very real," said student Anna Leao.
Olivia Robarge said her favorite thing about the election was the privacy from voting in closed booths.
"I liked being able to shut the curtain. That way it's like your own decision," Robarge said.
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