How Federal Courts Impact You Every Day

2018 is the 229th anniversary of the creation of the federal courts. What difference do they make in the daily lives of law-abiding teens? From that first check of the mobile device in the morning to the last newscast at night, decisions made in federal courts touch every aspect of daily life. Who are the judges making the decisions? How are they selected? What is their job description? What is an impartial judiciary? How was the federal court system created?

  • Resource Type: Research (Digests of Primary Sources)
  • Subject: Judicial Branch/Supreme Court
  • Grades: 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

Civil Discourse and Difficult Decisions

Civil Discourse and Difficult Decisions is a national initiative of the federal courts that brings high school and college students into federal courthouses for legal proceedings that stem from situations in which law-abiding young people can find themselves. These court hearings (not mock trials) are realistic simulations that showcase jury deliberations in which all students and learning styles participate, using civil discourse skills. This activity includes: Reality Check Quiz and Discussion Starter; Civil Discourse Skill Building; Courtroom Simulation; and Reality Check Discussion.

  • Resource Type: Simulation
  • Subject: Judicial Branch/Supreme Court
  • Grades: 10, 11, 12

Exploring the United States Constitution eBook

Each chapter connects one or more of the billions of primary source documents in the holdings of the National Archives to the principles found in the United States Constitution. These documents exemplify the workings of the three branches of the federal government as laid out in our Constitution. This eBook is available as a Multi-Touch book for iPad and Mac on iTunes, or for PC, Android devices, Mac, iPhone, iPad, or eReader with Scribd.

  • Resource Type: Modules (Teaching Unit), Primary Sources, Research (Digests of Primary Sources)
  • Subject: Federal Government
  • Grades: 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

The Constitution in Action – State Challenges to Federal Authority: The Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions

Students in this simulation, as Republican members of the Kentucky and Virginia legislatures in 1798 and 1799, consider how they will oppose the Alien and Sedition Acts. Students will then act as members of other state legislatures and consider how to respond to Kentucky and Virginia. By engaging in this historical moment, students will wrestle with the ongoing tension between the Article VI, Clause 2, of the Constitution, which establishes the federal government as the “supreme Law of the Land,” and the Tenth Amendment, which reserves powers “not delegated to the United States” to the states or the people.

  • Resource Type: Interactives, Lesson Plans, Modules (Teaching Unit), Primary Sources
  • Subject: Federal Government
  • Grades: 9, 10, 11, 12

The Constitution in Action: The Early Republic

This unit presents students with several such issues faced by Americans in the Early Republic as they tried to interpret and implement the Constitution. Lessons address “Origin of the Bill of Rights,” “Strict v. Loose Construction,” “Who Shapes Foreign Policy?” “State Challenges to Federal Authority: The Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions,” and “Political Parties and Presidential Electors: The Election of 1800.”

  • Resource Type: Interactives, Lesson Plans, Modules (Teaching Unit), Primary Sources
  • Subject: Federal Government
  • Grades: 9, 10, 11, 12

Congress and the Creation of the Bill of Rights

Students will explore the protections and limitations on authority contained in the Bill of Rights and the process by which the First Congress created it. They will do this by compiling a list of their rights as students, analyzing the Bill of Rights, and studying primary source documents to trace the origin and development of the first ten amendments. Students will then consider how the Bill of Rights might be updated to reflect 21st century circumstances. (Duration: 30–90-minute segments, up to 5 hours.)

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans, Modules (Teaching Unit), Primary Sources
  • Subject: Federal Government
  • Grades: 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

The Federalist Debates: Balancing Power Between State and Federal Governments

This series of activities introduces students to one of the most hotly debated issues during the formation of the American government — how much power the federal government should have — or alternatively, how much liberty states and citizens should have.

By tracing the U.S. federal system of government to its roots, established by America’s Founding Fathers in the late 18th century, student examine the controversial issue of state sovereignty versus federal power. Students compare the Articles of Confederation to the Constitution, analyzing why weaknesses in the former led to the creation of the latter. Then they examine the resulting system of government formed by the Constitution.

  • Resource Type: Essays, Lesson Plans, Modules (Teaching Unit), Research (Digests of Primary Sources)
  • Subject: Foundations of Democracy
  • Grades: 6, 7, 8

The U.S. Census

This Current Events and the Constitution focuses on the U.S. Census. With the 2010 census now underway, some have concerns that the questions are too personal or that the federal government should not have access to this information. Do the questions on the 2010 census form exceed Congress’s constitutional mandate to count population every ten years “in such a manner as they shall by law direct”?

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans, Modules (Teaching Unit)
  • Subject: Federal Government
  • Grades: 9, 10, 11, 12