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.
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?
Pathways to Environmental Justice
In this one-hour virtual field trip hosted and led by Edward M. Kennedy Institute education staff, students in grades 4 through 8 learn about the challenges posed by climate change and the need to transition to a more sustainable and resilient economy. They will work together as Senators to build a bill that provides assistance and environmental justice for three distinct groups of people affected by climate change: frontline and vulnerable communities, fossil fuel workers, and young people. Register here.
Compromise at the Constitutional Convention
This activity is designed to help students understand the debates at the Constitutional Convention in 1787 that shaped America’s legislative branch of government. The primary goal is for students to discover how a compromise balanced the needs of large states and small states and how this led to the
creation of the current House of Representatives and Senate. In contrast to the real convention, this activity is simplified and focused to come to a conclusion in a class period.
Today’s Vote in the Classroom
Today’s Vote in the Classroom provides two-day lessons that ask students to take on the role of U.S. Senators, debate issues, and cast their votes on real bills that have been introduced to Congress. Today’s Vote in the Classroom is made up of four key parts. Sequenced instructions, a full lesson-plan download, editable worksheets, and classroom presentations will guide you and your students through the program. Select from among many current, engaging topics, including Climate Change, Minimum Wage, Food Labeling, Voting Rights Restrictions, Mandatory Minimum Sentences, and Electoral College.
Iroquois Council: Choosing Sides
In this simulation, elementary or middle school students convene as an Iroquois council in upstate New York, 1777. British agents are trying to convince Iroquois nations to take their side in the Revolutionary War.
Local Politics: The Need for Compromise
This lesson examines the process of local decision making and its need for citizen input and compromise. Students simulate a local city/county council session and advise the council on public policy. Students are asked to consider the viewpoints of different citizen groups in order to reach a compromise that will benefit the entire community. This lesson can be used with a unit on local politics and can be adapted to reflect issues of compromise in your school or community. Free registration required to access the lesson plan.
Ida B. Wells and Her Crusade for Racial Justice
The abolition of slavery after the Civil War became the foundation for Ida B. Wells’s life work as a teacher, journalist, anti-lynching activist, community organizer, and woman suffragist.
Be Washington is an interactive experience in which YOU take on the role of George Washington, either as commander in chief or president. Come face to face with a leadership challenge, listen to advice from his most trusted sources, and decide how to solve the same problems Washington himself faced. Learn how Washington actually handled the situation, and see how other players voted. Play as an individual or hosts a game for a group. Lesson plans are available for each scenario. The game may be played online and is also available as an app. Visiting Mount Vernon? Make plans to play Be Washington in the Interactive Theater.