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Sam Fish, a fifth-grader at North Londonderry Elementary School, delivers a rousing campaign speech to his classmates in his run for class president on Thursday afternoon. (APRIL GUILMET/Union Leader Correspondent)

At North School, campaign season has been a treat

LONDONDERRY - If Brianna Meskell were president, gum-chewing would be encouraged and holiday parties would have that certain pizzazz.

Jilian Glynn promised she'd ask her principal to plant a birch tree - the state's official tree - on the playground and would have a zero-tolerance policy on bullying.

Meanwhile, Sam Fish vowed to host regular ice-cream sundae gatherings among his peers.

When your potential constituents are your fifth-grade classmates, it's all about anticipating certain wants and needs.

On Thursday afternoon, students at North Elementary School gathered in the cafeteria to listen to a series of campaign speeches somewhat different than the ones airing on cable news channels.

Social Studies teacher Beth Haarlander said the project began several months ago, with each of the school's fifth-grade classes asked to create their own political parties and nominate a presidential candidate.

Each class formed four parties in early September, and the class president nominee was able to select his or her own running mate.

From then on, fall was a flurry of posters and politicking, with the candidates vying for votes with candy bars and promises.

The kids even had the chance to videotape their own campaign commercials.

"They got their whole families involved in that part," Haarlander said with a laugh. "Some of the videos are pretty funny. You can sometimes hear the family dogs barking in the background."

Voting will take place all day on Friday, but it doesn't stop there. The kids will also take part in a mock election early next week, allowing them to debate the merits of Mitt Romney and Barack Obama.

"The goal is to give our students an understanding of the election process and encourage them to one day become lifelong voters," Haarlander said.

There wasn't a Republican or Democrat to be found on Thursday, but rather invented political parties such as the Reason Party, the Coastal Party, the Duck Party and the Sporty Bunch Party.

Some of the parties even came with their own symbols and mascots, though there were no elephants or donkeys.

Shannon Whalen of the "SSRSE Party" said her party's symbol is a star "because everyone is perfect in their own way and we can all be stars."

Candidate Ashley Doyle said she'd be a natural president because she'd focus mostly on teamwork.

"We can all make class more enjoyable, and I'll help all of us have a great year," she said,

"It would be fun to have more movies in the classroom," countered her opponent Cole Keegan.

Olivia Stowell vowed to form a school-wide "Peace Patrol" to encourage classmates to share good deeds.

"There's a lot of things we can't change at our school," said Olivia. "But we can always control how we treat others."

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