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Needham students going to the polls to vote for a state dish

Posted by Laura Franzini  November 2, 2012 02:30 PM

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It’s a close contest, with inconclusive polls and an uncertain outcome. Partisans on both sides are working feverishly to make their last-minute arguments. Who will the winner be?

It won’t be Barack Obama or Mitt Romney, that’s for sure.

The second graders at St. Joseph Elementary in Needham on Monday are heading to the polls in a mock election that may determine the state dish of Massachusetts: Boston baked beans or New England clam chowder.

The school announced today that the students are holding the election as part of the school’s second-grade social studies curriculum, in which students are learning about the importance of symbols throughout the nation’s culture, including the unique symbols of all 50 states.

While researching the state symbols of Massachusetts, such as the official cookie (Whitman’s Toll House) and the official folk dance (square dancing), the students learned that the Commonwealth has no state dish to speak of.

Then second-grade teachers Betsy Harrigan, Kaitlin Lynch, and Susan Rovzar got an idea.

“Throughout the weeks leading up to the election, students have been introduced to new vocabulary, designed campaign posters, and learned details about each of the candidates,” Harrigan said. “It’s been a terrific project for the students, and we’re all excited for the outcome.”

According to St. Joseph’s principal, Charlotte Kelly, the students voted on which two dishes were worthy of competition. With their ubiquity and long-standing traditions, Boston baked beans and New England clam chowder won the primary.

Kelly said the winner of Monday’s election will be announced over the school’s PA system, and the teachers are planning a field trip to the state Legislature in an attempt to make the winner official.

“I think they may vote on it,” she said of the legislature. “I’ve seen other schools go in and present their cases.”

The school election will be realistic, as 59 second graders will cast their ballots in a designated voting area, complete with ballot box and bunting, the school said.

“This brings [government elections] down to their level,” Kelly said. “They’re very excited about it.”

Kelly said St. Joseph will also host a school-wide mock presidential election on Tuesday.

Laura Franzini can be reached at

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