Scholastic's Democracy @ Work presents students with a behind-the-scenes tour of our American Government.
With the help of articles from a variety of Scholastic print and online publications, interactive games and timelines, and specialized learning activities, students explore the history of our American democracy even as they come to understand the challenges it faces in our current day.
The Democracy @ Work homepage is divided into five areas:
- In the News
- Explore Local Government
- More to Explore
- Now Featuring
- Presidential Activities
By having access to all the existing civics, U.S. government, and U.S. President content on Scholastic.com in one place, students can more readily make connections between subject materials. They can discover their own role in government as citizens of the United States and challenge their notions of what it means to be an American.
This project is suitable for students from grades 3-8, with a K-2 component that includes a Community Club field trip to Meet the Mayor. (For more K-2 components, go to the Community Club Teacher's Guide.) See Lesson Planning Suggestions below for a prescribed plan on using Democracy @ Work with your students.
ASSESSMENT AND RUBRICS
Several assessment components are embedded in this lesson plan. Targeted skills are listed in the Learning Objectives. Assessment and Rubrics assesses student proficiency with the Democracy @ Work project.
Scholastic's Democracy @ Work is designed to support the teaching of standards-based skills. Depending on how much time students spend in the course of participating in Democracy @ Work, students will:
- Evaluate the meaning and significance of such historical documents as the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights.
- Generate ideas and questions about the role of the American president and how the agenda of his administration impacts our daily lives.
- Consider what it means to be an American and the responsibility each American citizen has to participate in government by exercising their right to vote.
- Conduct research by gathering information about the function of government by reading background material, speech and interview transcripts, and in-depth political analyses.
- Use Web technology to access various aspects of American civics, including the history of our constitutional government and the continuing role of citizens in a democracy.
- Brainstorm on how they themselves can make a difference as individual citizens, not only of the United States, but of the world as a whole.
- Imagine themselves in the role of President and challenged with properly budgeting programs such as education, the military, and health care.
In the News
Declaration Hits the Road
In 2001, producer and philanthropist Norman Lear launched the Declaration of Independence Road Trip, a touring exhibit of an original copy of "The People's Document" that visited cities across the country. Students join that road trip in this Scholastic News project and discover for themselves through readings, recordings, and interactive quizzes the Declaration of Independence and, in addition, the Bill of Rights.
Meet President George W. Bush
This Scholastic News Special Report features in-depth coverage of the Bush agenda and the impact of the president's policies on areas such as the environment, education, school safety, and foreign affairs. Students can study the facts and present what they think of our current president by voting in an online poll.
Election 2002: Citizenship
How does United States law define "citizenship"? How does it define "alien"? In this component of a Scholastic News In-depth on the 2002 Election, students find answers to any questions they might have about how U.S. citizenship works and how it has functioned throughout American history.
Explore Local Government
Meet the Mayor
Mayor Steve Yamashiro invites early readers from grades K-2 on a Community Club visit to his office in Hilo, Hawaii. Through words and pictures, students are introduced to a few basics about a mayor's job and given an opportunity at the end of their visit to show how much they've learned by taking a simple interactive quiz.
More to Explore
Investigate Different Governments
Created with Grolier Online, this Research Starter on Presidential and Parliamentary Government provides students with all the tools they need to investigate these forms of government. Recommended research topics are offered in addition to a glossary, background information, and a list of resources that includes online articles and links to relevant Web sites on the Internet.
Read About Civics
In this extensive archive of articles from Scholastic print and online publications, students can research subjects ranging from the Constitution to lobbyists in Congress to bios of Supreme Court justices. Also featured are speeches of American political leaders and transcripts from Scholastic guest interviews.
Read About Past Presidents
For students interested in U.S. Presidents, this archive of Scholastic print and online publications offers a collection of speech and interview transcripts, presidential profiles, and even memos from the desk of the Oval Office. Also featured are articles on the role of the First Lady, the White House and its history, and fun facts on everything from what career each president had before taking office to what kind of pet they kept while residents at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
Students are challenged to make a difference by the example of Craig Kielburger, who at the age of 12 launched a campaign to fight child labor worldwide. His organization, Kids Can Free the Children, continues to raise money for food, medical supplies, and school construction for kids around the world. Students can visit the official Web site of Kids Can Free the Children and brainstorm ways they too can become civically active by downloading the "Get Ready to Get Involved" PDF workbook.
Can you fulfill your presidential duties?
In this interactive game from Scholastic News, students have a chance to show what they would do if they were President. How would they run the country? What would be the main issues of their agenda? Students choose advisors from various political backgrounds and then make decisions on budgeting programs such as education, the military, and health care.
Inauguration Time Line
This interactive time line allows students to follow the course of the American presidency, from George Washington's first inaugural address in 1789 to George W. Bush's swearing in after the election of 2000, and compare the dates of the presidents with important corresponding events in U.S. history.
U.S. President Math Hunt
With the help of Webster, Scholastic's resident math expert, students hunt around the Internet and travel to historic presidential sites such as the White House, Ford's Theater, and Monticello, as they collect facts about U.S. Presidents to help them solve problems that test math skills from the grades 5-8 curriculum.
With the help of clues from Carlotta Facts, professor of the History Mystery Museum, students try to identify a mystery person or event from American Government and politics. In each game, students are encouraged to use the World Wide Web or offline research sources to aid them in their efforts, and final answers offer comprehensive information on the game's subject, along with relevant links to other Web sites for further study.
NATIONAL STANDARDS CORRELATIONS
This project aids students in meeting national standards in several curriculum areas.
National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE)
- Students read a wide range of print and non-print texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and to acquire new information to meet the needs and demands of society.
- Students conduct research on issues and interests by generating ideas and questions.
- Students use a variety of technological and informational resources (libraries, databases, computer networks) to gather and synthesize information in order to create and communicate knowledge.
National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) and the Center for Civic Education (CCE)
- Civic Life, Politics, and Government (Students study the characteristics and function of government and the civic and political life that defines it.)
- Foundations of the American Political System (Students distinguish the elements of American constitutional democracy.)
- Principles of Democracy (Students study the basics of representative law in the American constitutional system and the roles of federal, state, and local governments.)
- Roles of the Citizen (Students define the rights and responsibilities of citizenship in American constitutional democracy.)
- Individual Development and Identity (Students learn to ask questions such as "What influences how people learn, perceive, and grow?")
- Power, Authority, and Governance (Students study the historical development of the structures of power, authority, and governance in American society.)
- Civic Ideals and Practices (Students gain an understanding of the ideals, principles, and practices of citizenship in a democratic republic.)
- Students use technology tools to enhance learning, increase productivity, and promote creativity.
- Students use technology to locate, evaluate, and collect information from a variety of sources.
- Students use technology tools to process data and report results
- Students use technology resources for solving problems and making informed decisions.
LESSON PLANNING SUGGESTIONS
As you plan your lessons, you may wish to print out any reading assignment pages and staple them into a book for individual students. If you have several computers in your classroom, assign computer time to small groups of same-reading, level students.
If you have one day
Begin the lesson about American government with the document that first proclaimed its independence. Direct students to the link for the Declaration Hits the Road. Have students read about Norman Lear's traveling exhibit of the original Declaration of Independence. Has anyone in your class seen this exhibit? Has anyone ever seen the Declaration of Independence at the National Archives in Washington, D.C.? Discuss students' basic preconceptions of the Declaration of Independence and then have them look at the actual text of the document. Encourage them to listen to portions of the text read aloud. They can then compare what they hear to an interpretation of the text found at the Declaration of Independence link. Finally, have students learn more about the Declaration of Independence and the current Declaration of Independence Road Trip by putting their Web-searching skills to use in the online Scavenger Hunt.
For more lesson planning ideas and reproducibles pertaining to the Declaration Hits the Road project, click on the link called Teacher Lesson Helpers.
If you have a week
Begin your unit with a discussion on government and civic responsibility. Some guided questions would be:
What are the three branches of government and how do checks and balances work?
Who is the President of the United States and what are some of his policies? What are some of the differences between the House of Representatives and the Senate? For example, which body is larger and why? Or in which body does one serve a longer term of office? Can students identify their local representative or a senator from their state?
How do citizens take part in their government? Discuss a few basics about voting in the United States, for example, who gets to vote? When do national elections occur? How was the current president elected?
After the discussion, introduce the class to the Democracy @ Work homepage and break up the class into sections.
Direct the first group of students to the Election 2002: Citizenship link and have them read about the definition and history of citizenship. Review relevant terms such as alien, naturalization, expatriation. Have students read about the different ways one can become a citizen of the United States. Ask them to write about what being an American means to them. For homework, have them interview family members with the same question, and then compare in class how the idea of being an American is understood in different households. Is there a difference for a student who has a parent who is a naturalized citizen compared with another whose parent was born in this country?
Direct the second group of students to examine how U.S. presidents have performed while in office. First direct students to the Inauguration Time Line found under Presidential Activities. Allow them to browse through the various dates each U.S. President served in office and compare how those dates correspond to important events in American history. Encourage students to select a president from the time line and then direct them back to the Democracy @ Work homepage to find the research link of articles about past presidents. There, students can compile facts about their chosen president and then discuss whether or not they think that president performed well while in office. Was there a crisis with which that president proved himself or was there an overshadowing event that left his presidency a failure? Finally, have student participate in the If You Were President activity to what they themselves would do if they were president.
Direct the third group of students to study about George W. Bush.
Have them to read over the Bush agenda and familiarize themselves with the various issues listed. Then instruct them to imagine themselves as a member of the president's cabinet, with each of them responsible for an area covered by the various issues. If they had to submit a memo to advise the president on their particular area, what would they write? What specifics of the president's plan would they think had good ideas, and why? Would they approve of the president's performance of their given area? What would they say about the president's overall performance? Recommend that they consult the results provided in the Presidential poll and then have them present their own findings to the class. If you have more time, go to the research link of articles about past presidents. Direct the students to select a past president and make comparisons of their record in office with the Bush agenda.
After each group has completed their tasks, have each group present their findings to the rest of the class.
As an extension, have students, individually or as a group, play the "If You Were President" game. Use the results of the game as the basis for a discussion about the function of the presidency and the role the president plays in American government. Some guided questions might be: Which among the president's programs is the most important? Why? What effect, if any, does balancing the budget have on these programs? Have students either discuss or write out their reasons for the choices they made while playing the role of president. What made them budget the way they did? How did they choose their advisors? How do their choices compare with the budget or advisors chosen by the current president?
If you have longer
Instead of breaking up the group, have each student do all three activities above.
After studying the three lessons above, an extension would be to read the "Now Featuring" area, and decide how the students can be good citizens.
Challenge your students to ask themselves how they can make a difference as members of society. Begin by directing them to read about Craig Kielburger and his organization, (Kids Can) Free the Children. Break the students up into groups and have them visit the official Web site of (Kids Can) Free the Children. To each group, assign a particular aspect of the organization that they should investigate - perhaps a project or a country where certain work is being done on behalf of children - and then have each group report their findings back to the whole class. Use a discussion of these facts to get students brainstorming ideas on how they, too, can have an effect on society. Have them answer questions provided on the Get Ready to Be Involved PDF and then share what they write. Additionally, you might discuss examples of other kids or people known personally who have made a difference: Why did they do it? How did they do it?
CROSS-CURRICULAR EXTENSIONS AND ACTIVITIES
Have students visit via the Internet important U.S. landmarks, such as the White House, the U.S. Capitol, and Thomas Jefferson's Monticello. How are the ideas of American civics reflected in these great buildings? Encourage students to research these landmarks and discuss the meaning of classical influences on their architecture. Study photographs of Greek and Roman ruins to make comparisons.
What does it feel like to be an immigrant as they make the all-important pledge to become an American citizen? Obtain the text used by immigration officials and have students participate in a mock swearing-in ceremony. But first have students imagine they have just come to the United States from a foreign country they choose. Through research, let them find a special place or custom native to that country that as American citizens they will be leaving behind. Discuss the experience of being sworn in. What do students think of the pledge they are making? Encourage them to write their own pledges. To learn more about immigration, click on Immigration: Stories of Today and Yesterday.
What is the science behind keeping a paper document as old as the original Declaration of Independence intact? And what methods do historians use to distinguish an original from a copy? Encourage students to research storing techniques used in museums and learn how certain chemical gases can preserve antique documents, while other influences such as tea staining, and excessive heat can make a page from the day's newspaper or even a piece of ruled notebook paper look like it's aged a hundred years.
Language Arts and the Media
Encourage students to think about the press and its relationship to the president and his agenda. Start with a discussion of what your students think about the role today's press has in politics and public policy. Use the mock newspaper article presented at the end of the "If You Were President" game as an example. Have students play the game, but then allow them to interview each other - either one-on-one or in groups - as they conduct their own mock press conferences. Students can then write a newspaper article about a classmate's performance as president. They can publish these articles as a class or even online with the help of Scholastic News Editors by linking to the News Writing activity featured on the Writing with Writers homepage.
The Story of the White House by Kate Waters
Here is an engaging tour of one of the world's most famous houses. Portraits of former Presidents and First Ladies, fun facts, and highlights of holiday celebrations make this an unforgettable visit to this national landmark.
Candidates, Campaigns, & Elections by Mary Oates Johnson and Linda Scher
Fully revised and updated! Get students excited about elections with these engaging activities. Through role-playing, interviewing, debating, and graphing, students will learn how our government is organized and how politicians present themselves and the media portrays them. Includes literature links, primary sources, and maps and charts for tracking results, plus a colorful poster.
Internet Activities: Government in the Making Series
Stand these sturdy folders up next to your classroom computer! Here are all the Web resources you and your students need to explore the Bill of Rights, the Boston Tea Party, and Washington, D.C.
Inside, you'll find background information, an Internet scavenger hunt, reproducible worksheet, and more Web-based activities.
The activities are designed to help your students develop critical-thinking skills and build their Internet-research skills. Ideal for independent learning!
Quick & Easy Internet Activities for the One-Computer Classroom: U.S. Government by Jacqueline B. Glasthal
It's easy to integrate technology into your one-computer classroom with this resource. These 20 activities encourage students to build Internet research skills as they learn about democracy, the U.S. Constitution, the branches of government, political parties, and more. With reproducible graphic organizers, students sort through and record information from reliable Web sites. Based on the research they collect, they can then: make a mobile showing the balance of power between the branches of government create a personal "contacts" list of elected officials write a job description for the next U.S. president, and more
Shh! We're Writing The Constitution by Jean Fritz
Jean Fritz introduces elementary and middle school students to the delegates at the 1787 summer convention in Philadelphia. Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, James Madison, and many other traveled there to draft a plan that would unify their states while preserving their sovereignty.
Decisions, Decisions 5.0 Building a Nation
Help your students make some of the most important decisions in history right in your classroom! Role-playing brings your curriculum to life! With each title in the Decisions, Decisions series, students role-play a decision-maker faced with a critical situation drawn right from your history or contemporary issues curriculum.
Your students not only acquire information, they learn how to use it.