Provide for the General Welfare – Interstate Highway and Defense Act

In the Constitution, Congress is charged with providing for the general welfare of the country’s
citizens. Historically, this has meant improving transportation, promoting agriculture
and industry, protecting health and the environment and seeking ways to solve social and
economic problems. In 1956, Congress passed the Federal-Aid Highway Act, popularly known as the National Interstate and Defense Highways Act, authorizing federal funding for the extension and
construction of a robust network of interstate highways. This project was one of the largest public
works in U.S. history establishing key transportation infrastructure that impacted lives of all
Americans — changing communities, access and economic possibilities and also providing key
routes for evacuating urban centers — a critical national defense issue in the Cold War era.
Analyzing primary source material, students discuss the origins and reasons for the National
Interstate and Defense Highways Act. Then, they work with historical and contemporary maps
as they consider the impact this important congressionally funded project. While intended for 8th
grade students, the lesson can be adapted for other grade levels.

Congress Investigates – Virtual Exhibit

The power to investigate, implied by the U.S. Constitution, is one of Congress’s most important tools for developing effective public policy, conducting oversight, and informing the public. Congress has investigated issues throughout its history via formal investigations and fact-finding inquiries with wide-ranging results, often significantly affecting the history of the United States.

Grades 7-12
Legislative Branch/Congress
Primary Sources

Conflict and Compromise – Virtual Exhibit

For more than two hundred years, the Capitol has been the place where representatives of the American people have debated how best to achieve the nation’s ideals. This exhibit displays some of our most important documents, drawn primarily from the collections of the Library of Congress and the National Archives, to illustrate the role of Congress in defining and helping to realize national goals and aspirations.

Grades 7-12
Legislative Branch/Congress
Primary Sources

Congress and the Separation of Powers – Virtual Exhibit

Why does the U.S. Constitution separate the government into three branches? At the nation’s founding, the Constitution’s framers understood that executive, legislative, and judicial responsibilities differed, and they provided for these distinct functions. They also believed that concentrating authority in one body would result in tyranny. They therefore divided the government into legislative, executive, and judicial branches, so that no single part would become too strong, and empowered each to limit or “check” the powers of the others. This exhibit examines Congress’s unique role and the ways in which it can balance or dynamically shape and challenge the powers of two other branches.

NHD Breaking Barriers: Americans and Native Americans

From the colonial era, relations between European settlers and Native American nations have been complicated. In 1803 Congress authorized and funded an expedition led by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark for exploration of the region and for better knowledge about American Indians of the Northwest in order to develop trade. About 30 years later, the United States forced the removal of Native Americans from their lands to make way for white American settlement. Congress and the president made treaties with Native American nations, but those treaties were not always respected as the United States continued to expand into the west. After Native Americans enlisted and served in both World War I and World War II, Congress passed legislation to begin to address longstanding Native Americans claims against the United States Government.

Women’s History in the United States

International Women’s Day has been commemorated across the world on March 8th since 1911 and every U.S. President has marked March as Women’s History Month since 1995. While the right to vote is a common topic of study in classrooms when examining women’s history, there are many more issues, perspectives, and accomplishments that require investigation across history, literature, and the arts to more fully appreciate and understand what women’s history in the U.S. encompasses. Our Teacher’s Guide provides compelling questions, lesson activities, resources for teaching about the intersection of place and history, and multimedia resources to integrate women’s perspectives and experiences throughout the school year.

Landmarks of American History and Culture

This Teacher’s Guide provides information and resources for integrating creative approaches to place-based history in K-12 humanities education. As tangible reminders of the past, memorials and monuments, as well as neighborhoods, historic homes, waterways, and many other sites, have the power to influence how we interpret contemporary society. The resources herein address public history and the disciplines that fall within the field; NEH Landmarks of American History and Culture programs and the resources that have been developed for educators; and access to sites included in the National Register of Historic Places and National Historic Landmarks. By introducing historic and cultural sites into the classroom setting, students can develop a greater understanding of the reality and prevalence of history in their local landscape.

Rights in America

This DocsTeach page includes a variety of primary sources and teaching activities exploring the ways Americans, including African Americans and others, have fought for, attained, and protected their rights. Many documents at the National Archives illustrate how individuals and groups asserted their rights as Americans. Use this site to find teaching activities to explore the topics such as slavery, racism, citizenship, women’s independence, immigration, and more.

Grades 4, 5, 6-12
Citizenship

Black History Month Lesson Plans on Nonviolence

The power of nonviolent actions and attitudes as a means to resist oppression and spur reforms is a recurring feature of democratic and democratizing societies. The School Violence Prevention Demonstration Program presents educators with lesson plans that explore the use of nonviolence in history, paying particular attention to the civil rights movement and African American history. Six lessons address: the 1963 Children’s March; the concept of nonviolence using primary sources and stories of participants in the civil rights movement; the power of nonviolence; the story of Rosa Parks; citizenship schools; how music can be used to achieve social and political change.