Election of 1860: Slavery Splits the Democrats

This four-minute video explores the causes and consequences of the Democratic Party’s division into two parties following the Democratic national convention of 1860. After rejecting Stephen A. Douglas’s failed attempt to reconcile the Northern and Southern factions of the party with his doctrine of “popular sovereignty,” the Southern delegates walked out of the convention. That decision led to the election of Abraham Lincoln, the Civil War, and 50 years of Republican dominance in national politics. A concise summary of the unusual events that allowed Abraham Lincoln to win the election of 1860, the video fits into any sequence of lessons on the factors leading to secession and the Civil War.

Lesson Plan: How States Redistrict – The Case of 2022

This lesson plan explores the Congressional and state redistricting processes in several states, including Texas, Florida, Colorado, Montana, Oregon, North Carolina, Michigan, Pennsylvania, New York, California, Illinois, Ohio, and West Virginia. The lesson extends to the legislative, executive, and judicial processes as well as the geographic and demographic considerations of redistricting.

Grades 9-12
Legislative Branch/Congress
Lesson Plans

Virtual Vote

A growing city needs a new water source. The easiest and cheapest source is a river on federal land in a national park. Should the city be allowed to dam the river and use the water for its citizens? Or, should the valley remain protected for the use and enjoyment of all Americans? In this online program, students assume the role of members of Congress. They hear testimony from both sides, weigh conflicting points of view and make a decision. How will you vote?

Grades 7-12
Legislative Branch/Congress
Games

How a Bill Becomes a Law – Clean Water Act of 1972

The Federal Water Pollution Control Act, commonly known as the Clean Water Act, was originally passed in 1948. By 1972, Congress had voted on an amended version of the law that included the expansion of regulations to prevent pollution of the nation’s waterways. In this lesson, students consider how the Clean Water Act of 1972 became a law. They identify key moments in the evolution of this bill including its path in Congress, its veto by President Nixon and its eventual enactment. Preparing and organizing information, students interpret these key events and share them in a storyboard presentation. While intended for 8th grade students, the lesson can be adapted for other grade levels.

House and Senate: What’s the Difference?

The United States Congress consists of two legislative bodies, the House of Representatives and the Senate. There are many similarities between these institutions. Representatives and Senators are directly elected by the public (see Capitol Visitor Center essay “Who Elects Our Senators?”). Passing legislation requires the agreement of both the House and Senate. There are chambers for both in the U.S. Capitol. Given these commonalities, are there really differences between the House and Senate?