Youth Leadership Initiative

The Youth Leadership Initiative at the University of Virginia Center for Politics is dedicated to increasing civic engagement by providing teachers with the best civics education materials and programs. Research shows that quality civics education programs are essential to creating lifelong citizenship and YLI programs empower students to take responsibility for our democracy. YLI believes that, “Politics is a Good Thing!”

Featured Resources

Civil Rights vs. States Rights: A Case Study

This lesson is designed to get students to think critically about the meaning of the 14th and 10th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. At times in America’s history these two concepts – civil rights and state rights – have clashed, leaving the Supreme Court to make the ultimate decision. As a part of this lesson students are asked to examine Virginia’s Massive Resistance Laws after the Brown v. Board of Education decision, source documents and a speech from Gov. L. Douglas Wilder to determine the extent to which states’ rights were championed at the expense of civil liberty.

PPT to accompany Civil Rights vs. States’ Rights

This lesson is designed to get students to think critically about the meaning of the 14th and 10th amendments to the U.S. Constitution. At times in America’s history these two concepts- civil rights and state rights have clashed, leaving the Supreme Court to make the ultimate decision for the nation’s future.

Constitutional Compromise Game

The Constitutional Compromise Game was designed specifically for teachers who don’t know what to do on Constitution Day. The game combines the skills of discourse, debate and compromise that were essential to the creation of the Constitution. Students work independently and in groups to solve Constitutional challenges and ratify the Constitution. This is a great activity for teachers who do not teach government or civics but need to satisfy the Constitution Day requirement.

Constitution Day: Lunch with James Madison

This twenty-six minute film features seven high school and middle school aged students sharing lunch and discussing the Constitution with President James Madison. YLI went back to fall of 1814- just after the end of the War of 1812 to question the fourth president about constitutional challenges that faced his presidency. Lunch consisted of period dishes that would have been served at Montpelier, home of the Madisons.

Comparing Jefferson and Hamilton: The Birth of Political Parties

A presidential election between Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton never happened. But what if it did? This lesson will instruct students on the birth of political parties by having them simulate an early political rally and determine whether or not they would vote for Thomas Jefferson or Alexander Hamilton in a fictional presidential election.

The Plan: Creating a Constitution

This three act play chronicles the creation of the Constitution from the problems with the Articles of Confederation to the ratification process. If time is a factor, teachers can use Act II only to teach students about the actual Constitutional Convention. Adapted from “Shh! We’re Writing the Constitution” by Jean Fritz.

The 2016 National Mock Election

Each year, YLI conducts the largest secure, student only, online mock election in the U.S. using ballots tailored to each student’s home legislative district. The 2016 National Mock Election will run October 17 -28th. YLI also hosts My Mock Election throughout the year and has the ability to host state and international elections.

Civics Mini-Module: The Preamble

This short activity (then minutes) is designed for classrooms that do not have a civics component as a part of the formal curriculum. This lesson can be used independently to educate students about the importance of civic engagement. This resource cites David Catrow’s book, “We the Kids: The Preamble to the U.S. Constitution.”

The Preamble to the U.S. Constitution: What is the Role of Government?

This lesson plan asks students to analyze the Preamble in order to determine the role of government. Students must draw conclusions about what the Founding Fathers had in mind when drafting the Preamble and how to interpret the Constitution based on those beliefs. The lesson uses puzzles and interactive materials to lead students to the definition of strict v. loose constructivism.

Referenda Fair: Holding a Constitutional Convention

The Founding Fathers believed that the Constitution would need to be revised and reworked to meet the changing needs of the country. They would be surprised to know that there hasn’t been another Constitutional Convention despite over two hundred years of history. This lesson plan guides students through an analysis of issues that might be discussed if a Constitutional Convention were held today.

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