Explore the case that marked the first time the Supreme Court ruled a state law unconstitutional. This formative decision upheld the Commerce Clause and set the precedent that the Contract Clause applied to the states. Ideas included in the decision also shaped Native American property rights for the foreseeable future.
This unit provides lesson plans to help teachers cultivate respectful and constructive discussions among students in the classroom, promoting critical thinking, empathy, and effective communication skills.
This unit aims to cultivate critical thinking skills in students as they explore microeconomics and macroeconomics, examining the role of government in the economy through lessons that encourage analysis, evaluation, and understanding of economic principles and government interventions.
This unit on civics fosters critical thinking skills in students as they engage with topics in government, democracy, and U.S. history, providing comprehensive lesson plans that encourage deep analysis, evaluation, and reflection on the principles and dynamics of civic life.
Students will work together to analyze key points of different Supreme Court cases and apply their analysis to evaluate to what extent the Constitution merits capital punishment.
Article III of the Constitution establishes the judicial branch of the national government, which is responsible for interpreting the laws. At the highest level, the judicial branch is led by the U.S. Supreme Court, which consists of nine Justices. In the federal system, the lower courts consist of the district courts and the courts of appeals. Federal courts—including the Supreme Court—exercise the power of judicial review. This power gives courts the authority to rule on the constitutionality of laws passed (and actions taken) by the elected branches. The Constitution also promotes the principle of judicial independence—granting federal judges life tenure (meaning that they serve until they die, resign, or are impeached and removed from office). This module will examine the judicial branch and its powers.
Article II of the Constitution establishes the executive branch of the national government, headed by a single President. Article II outlines the method for electing the President, the scope of the President’s powers and duties, and the process of removing one from office. The President’s primary responsibility is to carry out the executive branch’s core function—namely, enforcing the nation’s laws. From the debates over how to structure the Presidency at the Constitutional Convention to modern debates over executive orders, this module will explore the important role of the President in our constitutional system.
When crafting the Constitution, one of the central concerns of the Founding generation was how best to control government power. With the new Constitution, the Framers looked to strike an important balance—creating a new national government that was more powerful than the one that came before it while still protecting the American people’s most cherished liberties. They settled on a national government with defined but limited powers. Instead of placing authority in the hands of a single person (like a king), a small group of people (like an aristocracy), or even the whole people (like a direct democracy), the Framers divided power in two ways. At the national level, the Framers divided power between the three branches of government—the legislative branch, the executive branch and the judicial branch. This process of dividing power between different branches of government is called the separation of powers. From there, the Framers further divided power between the national government and the states under a system known as federalism. In this module, students will explore the key functions of the different parts of government and the role that the Constitution plays in controlling government power.
This lesson explores why five U.S. presidents were hated by groups of Americans, including Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Lyndon Johnson, and Richard Nixon. Students will explore materials from C-SPAN’s Presidential Survey and engage in a choice board activity. The lesson culminates with students reflecting on how presidents have been criticized historically and in contemporary times and offers two extension activities.
This comprehensive, short-form video series explains the text, history, and relevance of the United States Constitution, Bill of Rights, and additional amendments. The videos are assignable and end with call-to-action questions, prompting learners to further explore the topics covered in the video through a modern lens. Click on each category to see its related videos, and click on the video thumbnail to watch the full clip. You can also autoplay each category’s videos using YouTube playlists. The series was developed in partnership with the Center for Civic Education, and with the contributions of constitutional scholar Linda R. Monk, JD.