Bear Baiting Referendum – State Referendum Education

In the fall of 2004, Mount Desert Island High School offered a course, “Election 2004: Democracy in Action,” designed to teach students about voting and the electoral process. As part of the class, the teacher invited guest speakers to class to discuss the upcoming elections, candidates and referenda. Based on the information from the guest speakers and their class readings, the students brainstormed a list of issues and problems related to the upcoming elections. Then, the students broke into small groups based on the issue they most wanted to address. One group decided to focus on an upcoming state referendum on bear baiting and concerns that voters lacked information about both sides of the issue.

To supplement to the information they gathered from the guest speakers, the students used the Internet, news articles, and interviewed local community members to learn more about the problem of low voter information on the bear baiting referendum. The students identified two main reasons why people lacked information: biased media sources; and available information was presented in a way that was not interesting or engaging for voters.

The students then brainstormed possible solutions to these problems, including: create a small documentary; write a newspaper article; host a public seminar; and/or create pamphlets and posters. They decided to combine some of their ideas by creating a website and filming a public service announcement.

Working with a Maine State Representative, local town clerks, and lobbyists, the students compiled, organized, and created a website and PSA with unbiased, interesting information about the referendum. For both the website and PSA, the students developed an annotated work cited list that was approved by their teacher. The students launched their website and aired their PSA on a local television station. They also shared their information with their peers, parents, and community members at their school’s “Voter Information Night.”