March 21, 2019

Constitution

Back to the Future of the Bill of Rights

This lesson introduces students to the sources of the federal Bill of Rights. They will read the suggested changes to the Constitution offered by the original thirteen states during ratification, and identify which suggestions were adopted into the Bill of Rights. They will distill the important ideas from the states’ suggestions, and discuss the value of such protections and rights.

Is That Interstate Commerce?

What is this clause in the U.S. Constitution, and how has it been used by Congress? This lesson explores several U.S. Supreme Court cases from the past century dealing with the Commerce Clause.

Preamble

Students will compare the preamble of the U.S. Constitution with the preambles from two state constitutions. They will extract common themes from the three, and note key differences. The preamble to the Constitution has not been changed since its drafting; the Constitution, however, has been amended. Students will reevaluate the ideals expressed in the Preamble and consider their relevance today. They are given the chance to rewrite the Preamble, share their rationale, and explain the values contained expressed inside.

Reforming Government

In this lesson, students will learn about how the Constitution can be and has been amended. Students are assembled into a mock Constitutional Convention and asked to propose amendments of their own. They will discuss and evaluate the proposed amendments and so see first-hand the role of deliberation in law-making. The value of law-making by referendum can then be introduced and discussed as an alternative system.

Rules, Rules, Rules

In this lesson, students are asked to play a game – passing an object, such as an eraser – in which the rules are unclear and keep changing. Students are then asked to actively reflect on when and why rules are important and necessary. The leader might then connect rules of the game to the rule of law, and discuss the importance of law in our communities and in our society. 

Weights and Measures

In this lesson, students will come to understand why having common weights and measures, imposed and enforced by the government, is important in day-to-day life. They will discuss how weights and measures permeate the sciences, industry, and commerce, discovering the importance of such standards in their own lives. In the process, students will identify concepts underlying the need for weights and measures, such as private property and fair treatment under the law.  

We the People

Political cartoon conversation starter that considers what "We the People" in the Preamble of the Constitution means.

What is a Democracy?

In this lesson, students will identify essential components of a functioning democracy. They will be presented with “borderline” countries – hypothetical nations that exhibit some, but not all, of the characteristics of a democracy. Through discussion and group work, students will expand their understanding of democracy and see different manifestations of democratic practices.