Prayer and Friday Night Lights?

In this lesson, students explore the scope and limits of the establishment clause of the First Amendment. First, students read and discuss an article on the constitutional issue of student-led prayer at public school events. Next, they role-play Supreme Court justices and attorneys deciding this issue. Finally, in a whole-class discussion, they debrief their own findings and compare them with those of the Supreme Court in the case of Santa Fe Independent School District v. Jane Doe et al.

Grades 10, 11, 12
Foundations of Democracy
Interactives

Dictators and Civil Wars: The Cold War in Latin America

This 6-minute video explores how the Cold War was an ideological, and sometimes military, struggle between the United States and the Soviet Union. In general, the Soviet Union supported the expansion of communist governments around the globe, and the United States supported anti-communist regimes, including both democracies and dictatorships. By the 1950s, these tensions were seen in Latin America, and revolutions, coups, and uprisings became commonplace throughout most of the latter half of the twentieth century.

Aftermath of the War on Terror

This 11-minute video and lesson plan enable students to examine the experiences of Muslims and Arab Americans following the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Students will investigate one example of a flawed prosecution of Arab immigrants living in Detroit as a case study in the climate of fear following the attacks. Students will then choose from among other primary source materials to describe particular experiences and generalize about the broader experiences of Muslims and Arab Americans.

The War on Terror and the Debate Over Torture

This 13-minute video and lesson plan are designed for students to analyze the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the public debate over the use of so-called enhanced interrogation techniques by U.S. officials and government contractors. Students will evaluate multiple perspectives from a mix of resources (video clips, a short film, documents and political cartoons) and classify arguments as being supportive, neutral or critical of government action.

American Reckoning

The video segments for this activity come from “American Reckoning,” a Frontline and Retro Report collaboration that examines a little-known story of the civil rights era. This activity centers on the attempted murder of George Metcalfe and the response by the N.A.A.C.P. and Deacons for Defense chapters of Natchez, Miss.

Supreme Court Lessons

These interactive lessons for high school students lead them through a simulation of an actual Supreme Court case and help them to break down complex constitutional issues. Each lesson begins with an overview of the facts of the case, followed by a brief discussion of the Supreme Court decision. Then, students are asked to take a stand “for” or “against” the majority decision. The cases that the Rendell Center has selected involve student-specific issues and/or those issues shown to be important to youth through their social media posts or active engagement.

Literature-Based Mock Trial Lessons

This literature based mock trial format provides a dynamic interactive opportunity for K-8 students to develop higher-level thinking skills, as well as gain a deeper understanding of the U.S. judicial system and constitutional principles. The Rendell Center’s Mock Trial framework is easy to follow, and its lesson plans – based on classic or classroom pieces of literature – provide teachers with the tools and guidance needed to help their class write and argue a mock trial, and actively take on the roles of defendant, lawyers, witnesses, jurors, and court officials.

Grades 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8
Judicial Branch/Supreme Court
Interactives

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