Seventh-graders in Michael D’Amato’s social studies class at Soehl Middle School have been working hard to answer the question on everyone’s mind: “How is America going to vote?” 

Students, who are continuing to study remotely, have been studying the latest polls and analyzing past election results to track voter trends. They presented their final “2020 Presidential Projection Maps” on Thursday, Oct. 29, and also shared their picks for an Election Day surprise.

D’Amato, a teacher of 21 years, considers the “Path to the Presidency” project he created to be his No. 1 class project of all time.

“As a social studies teacher, my top priority is to foster within my students the desire for ‘active citizenship,’” he said. “I truly feel that this project has the potential to echo over a lifetime.”

Although his students aren’t of voting age, D’Amato believes this project will create a solid foundation for them to understand and appreciate what it takes to become president.

“What I have been most impressed by is how many students turned this challenge into a family project,” he said. “Students tell me on a regular basis that they are polling family members on their views regarding battleground states.”

Over all of D’Amato’s classes, 34 students correctly predicted former Vice President Joe Biden would win, 15 predicted President Donald Trump would win, and one student predicted an electoral tie. All students correctly forecasted that New Jersey would support Biden.

screen image of electoral map

Seventh-grader Jazlyn Graves came closest to predicting a perfect electoral map, missing only Georgia.

Knowing how complicated the concept of why some states are considered blue or red, while others switch colors quite frequently, D’Amato decided to spice the project up by offering any student who formulated a perfect “2020 Presidential Projection Map” a doubling of their grade.

“When the students first heard that they could earn a 200 as a grade on this project, those ears that weren’t exactly tuned in suddenly were leaning in a lot more,” he said.

One student came very close to the double grade. Jazlyn Graves had 49 of 50 states correct, missing only Georgia, which Biden won by only 14,000 votes and which wasn’t called for more than a week after the election.

“I enjoyed predicting who would win and why,” Jazlyn said. “It made me think more about how the election system works. The state I spent the longest time on was Pennsylvania. It was a tough decision to make because polls showed more red than blue, which was confusing. I can most definitely say using past election results as help helped me decide.”

Because Jazlyn came so close, D’Amato decided to reward her:

“I decided that predicting 49 out of 50 states correctly, which was better than my own projection map to be honest, and Jazlyn having the best map out of all four of my classes, was deserving of the double grade bonus.”