AURORA | Arrowhead Elementary students got a taste of the democratic process this Election Day as students voted to determine the school’s new mascot.
The school discontinued use of its previous mascot, the thunderbird, after the Colorado legislature passed a law in 2021 prohibiting the use of Native American mascots by schools unless they have an agreement with a specific tribe.
Arrowhead was one of several Colorado schools that was asked to change its mascot from the thunderbird, a mythical bird found in Native American legends, after the law took effect.
School principal Kelsey Jones said the school has conducted a yearlong process of identifying its core values and asking community members to submit new mascots that were reflective of those ideas. On Tuesday, students voted for the three finalists: fox, lion or stegosaurus.
The school’s 490 students, teachers and staff as well as parents and alumni were invited to vote, and the winning choice will be unveiled at the end of the month. Along with the need for a new mascot, Jones said the process also gave the school the opportunity to teach kids about the voting process and the importance of civic engagement.
“This is a way for them to be part of the decision,” said Teresa Durbin, an in-house substitute teacher at Arrowhead, who was manning the voting station on Tuesday.
The station had individual privacy booths where students could vote by circling their top choice on a ballot and a box to drop ballots into. Classes came by throughout the day, and each student was given an “I Voted” sticker.
The core values that the school identified were community, family, resilience and strength, Jones said. Each mascot choice embodies those in its own way.
Lions live in prides, and represent courage and strength. Foxes are playful, social creatures and reflect the diversity of the Arrowhead community because they have many hues and live on every continent. The stegosaurus is the Colorado state fossil, and Jones said dinosaur bones found in Morrison suggest they were social creatures who traveled in herds. The plates on stegosauruses’ backs also resemble arrowheads, she said.
Third grader Abigail Elias voted for the fox “because they’re cute and energetic and playful.”
Dayton Quinn, also in third grade, voted for the stegosaurus because he liked that their plates resembled arrowheads.
Both students said they enjoyed being able to participate in the selection process.
As she ushered a new class into the voting station, Durbin reminded students of how the election process worked.
“If your vote doesn’t win, we’re not going to be sad or mad, because all of these are great choices for Arrowhead,” she said.
Jones said that teachers were able to discuss the voting process in a way that was developmentally appropriate for their students. Older grades discussed the political process and the value of expressing your opinion using facts. Younger students focused on concepts like consensus building, and that while everyone’s vote is important, not everyone will be able to win.
Students also “campaigned” for their favorite mascot by putting up posters along the hallways and airing campaign ads in the school’s in-house news program.
Jones said the importance of accuracy came up when one of the ads included information that was untrue — that dinosaur bones had been found under the school.
“I did fact check that,” she said.
The stegosaurus seems to be the leading candidate, Jones said, though the fox has also garnered a lot of support.
“Kids love dinosaurs,” she said. “A lot of our kids like the stegosaurus because no one else has it as a mascot. It’s unique and special.”
The winning mascot will be unveiled at a school assembly Nov. 29.