Friday, November 30, 2007

NCSS: Teacher Created Materials—Social Studies Strategies for Active Learning

Carousel Brainstorming

Place large post-it notes around the classroom on the walls and put students in groups of four. On each post-it, write a unique question. Give each group of students a single marker and ensure all groups have different colors.

Have groups each go to one large post-it and write their answers. After a few moments, have students transfer to the next post-it. On the new post-it, they should put a check by the items with which they agree that were written by the previous group and they should add additional items. Continue circling in this way until al groups have visited all post-its.

Vote on It

Give students a problem (e.g., who will you choose as the first president of the United States, which wagon master should you choose to lead you across the west). Provide students with profile cards for several possible candidates and let them work in groups to decide who they think is most qualified. Students then vote on who they think is most and least qualified. Then, the teacher will provide more information about each candidate and provide the name of the candidate. Students will learn if they would have selected the same person others selected historically.

An organization that provides PowerPoint presentations in conjunction with the Library of Congress that teach about primary sources.

Allows you to access news reel clips from several historical eras.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Book: Peter and the Starcatchers

I just completed reading Peter and the Starcatchers by David Barry, Ridley Pearson, and Greg Call. The book is the prequel to Peter Pan and explains how he came to be in Neverland, how he became the boy who would never grow up, how he gained the ability to fly, and how he and Tink became friends.

The book is a delightful, fanciful read.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Book: Angels and Demons

I just completed reading Angels and Demons by Dan Brown. This excellent fictional book recounts a story about the Illuminati and the conflicts between science and religion. The text focuses on the Catholic Church and I learned a lot about Catholic traditions through reading the text - though I have to do some research to separate fact from fiction.

The text is of the same genre as The Da Vinci Code and is an equally enjoyable and informative read.

I am now interested in reading Digital Fortress, also by Dan Brown, but may take a break and head back to Eric Larson to read Isaac's Storm (I loved Thunderstruck and Devil in the White City).

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Kaleidoscope of Early Culture in Las Vegas

September 29-30 at the Springs Preserve and Lost City Museum
With renowned author Joy Hakim and artist/author Roy Purcell
Sponsored by the Nevada Council for History Education
Co-sponsored by the National Council for History Education, Stephens Press, Clark County Education Foundation, Springs Preserve, Lost City Museum, Houghton-Mifflin, Smithsonian Books, and ABC_CLIO

Dr. Linda Miller, College of Southern Nevada, introduced the conference and several of the presenters and conference sponsors.

Judging a Book by Its Cover: Introduction to the Art of Book Binding
Presented by Jennifer Jacobi

Tools of bookbinding include:
  • Bone folders (used to smooth down book bindings without bruising the paper).
  • Awl (Makes holes)
  • Pliers (Assist in pulling thread through)
  • Clamps (To keep the book in place)
  • Adhesives (She likes “Books by Hand”; PVA is archival quality; Glue sticks work well)
  • Tread (Linen-based for archival quality)
  • Paper (The interior and end-papers and fly-leaves of the book; she prefers recycled and handmade papers, leather, or book cloth. Leather covers require separate tools)
  • Book press (Can be used in lieu of stacking books on top of each other)
  • Needles (She uses embroidery needles)
  • Optional: binder’s board (for hard-cover books)
Books can be glued together or sewn together.

Jenifer introduced several book structures and then demonstrated making a book.

To make a book, use 8.5” X 11” pages and fold them in half and in half again. Measure twice the length of the book in thread and make a child’s shoulder strap. Position the paper so it’ is even on both sides and clip the book together to hold it in place. Place the awl through the center of the book and 1” from the ends. Thread the needle adding a double-knot on one end. Sew the book beginning at the interior on one end. Go in through the center, out through the bottom, back in through the center, and back out from the top. This gives the book a nicer look. Tie a double-knot that the end next to the original knot. Trim the knots.

The Cultural and Historical Resources of the Las Vegas Springs
Presented by Marcel Parent

An audio of Marcel's presentation is available here.

The Springs Preserve has been known as the “Big Springs” historically. It covers 180 acres of and is the richest and most unique cultural and biological resource in Southern Nevada. It has 10,000 years of biological, geological, and cultural history.

By the 1840s, Las Vegas was officially on the map. It was a poster-child for advertising migration to the west. In May of 1905, the first land auction occurred in Las Vegas and the railroad came through later that year.

Water supply issues began in the 1910’s and by 1962, the springs stopped flowing.

The region has identified a mass of archaeological artifacts including prehistorical and historic ceramic shards, stone tool pieces (one Elko eared projectile point from 100 BC), glass pieces, animal remains (mostly bones), manos (6 samples all of an oval form designed for use with one hand), metates, C-14 samples (charcoal from hearths and camp fires wit the earliest dated to 700 AD), soil samples, nails, and metal pieces. The archaeological digs continue. Some of the pieces go back to 100 BC. They have identified artifacts from all the tribes that have inhabited the area including the Anasazi, Pythians, and Paiutes.

The history of water on this site is the history of its people. Without water in this area, travelers would not have stopped in this Valley. Without the springs and aquifers that led to the surface, Las Vegas would never have been developed. There are some still functioning wells on-site; the remainder are dry. With water coming from Lake Mead, the demands for water from the Big Springs as the sole water source for Las Vegas lessened. Local use of the Springs water continued until they ran dry. They will never deliver water again. By 1962, water on the Springs Preserve site was gone.

A spring mound on the Springs Preserve site took 10,000 years to create and is currently viewable at the Springs Preserve. It is the only remaining unexcavated spring mound in the Las Vegas Valley. Archaeologists feel they will probably not learn new information from excavating this mound so have elected to maintain it in its present form.

The spring mound shows evidence of human use for at least 5,000 years. Springs attract plants, animals, and eventually humans. Humans leave refuse that describes human eating habits. Projectile point sizes determine the type of game hunted by indigenous people.

The focus of the Springs Preserve is on conservation, preservation, and archaeological study. Research began here in the early 1970s and began to increase over the last decade. The Preserve includes four trails: Crossroads, Exploration, Springs, and Cienega. There are four major areas of the Preserve including the Big Springs Theatre, Natural Mojave, People of the Springs, and New Frontier Gallery.

People have successfully adapted to the Las Vegas Valley desert for a millennium. Early settlements were close to water. There have been people here, however, since 8000 BC. Early peoples of the pre-ceramic period were here from 8000 BC to 300 AD. They avoided spending extended period of time in this Valley, coming seasonally as hunters and gatherers. Ancient Puebloan people lived in the Valley.

The Preserve includes sample living structures from early human inhabitants.

Before 1830, there is no evidence of Euro-Americans in the Las Vegas Valley. The first scouting expedition was with Rafael Rivera and there was later a tragic battle between the Natives and Euro-Americans over natural resources of the Valley.

Freemont used Las Vegas as a camp ground and praised the presence of water. Though he said it was too warm to enjoy drinking, it was a wonderful bathing place.

Settlers began coming to Las Vegas in the 1850s. Euro-American buildings began development in the 1870s. There are derricks dating back to 1910. Streams ran from this area to other settlements in the Valley, but the water became contaminated as it ran downstream because of cattle and other farm animals.

Adobe was a natural building element for the area.

Derricks are named because of their resemblance to the gallows using the hangman’s noose that were developed by the British executioner named Thomas Derrick.

The Springhouse will be one of the first reconstruction projects on the Preserve. Some of the other buildings on site include the chicken coup, settler’s basin, caretaker’s house, and caretaker’s barn.

History of the Lost City: Native American Cultures
Presented by Eva Jensen

An audio of Eva's presentation is available here.

Paleo Period: 13,400 years ago
  • The climate was cooler and wetter and the valley had shallow lakes and springs with marsh resources. The people primarily hunted large game.
Archaic: 10,000 years ago
  • The climate dried and Southern Nevada became the Mojave desert that we know today; the lakes and springs diminished and dried. There was a resource shift toward desert plants and animals.
The shift toward the Basketmaker Period happened between 300 BC and 400 AD
  • Desert springs and streams formed providing an area for growing plants, and corn cultivation begins. Evidence of domestic corn in Moapa Valley exists from around 200 AD. They planted the corn in gravel.
Basketmaker Period: 2,000 years ago
  • Though the people continued to hunt, they did this opportunistically. Instead, they shifted toward an almost exclusive diet based on horticulture with the main crop being corn. Homes appeared in clusters of one to four pit houses with interior hearths.
Pueblo I: 600 AD-1000 AD
  • The changes in technology in this era were the addition of the bow and arrow and the development of pottery. The climate was hot and dry. There was either migration, trade, or seasonal movement between this area and the Arizona strip.
  • People in Southern Nevada lived in pueblo houses while dwellers were in Arizona. The Hopi were descendants of the Anasazi (now the preferred term is Ancestral Puebloan) and these were the people living in Southern Nevada during this period.
Pueblo II: 1000 AD – 1150
  • There were cluster settlements if above ground adobe pueblo houses. They made investments in horticulture and food storage rooms.
  • Corrugated pottery (pinched by hand to make an outside design) was introduced in 1050 AD. For this area, the corrugated period lasted for only for 100 years. There was also an increase in imported pottery to this region that ended after 1100 (even though they are still making that pottery on the Arizona strip). Pottery was made with local materials including clay and gravel. They smoothed the surface with a stone, painted with “bee weed,” and used yucca fiber brushes for painting. They did not use kilns; instead, relying on heated wood that was set under the dried (but not fired) bowls. More wood was placed on top, and then more wood placed on top of that. They then set the wood on fire and this chemically changed the bowl to keep it intact. Pottery was primarily utilitarian with the tight-necked pottery for carrying water and large-mouthed pieces for storage of dried goods or for use as cooking pots.
  • The maximum population of this area was probably about 500.
  • Specialization was not an element of these Native cultures, though some families may have been experts in certain trades. There is some evidence that there were some specialists whose products traveled (but the method of dispersion is unknown).
  • Currently archaeologists have not been focused on identifying the materials in pottery as unique to a geographic location. One type of pottery is clearly from Arizona. Designs are unique to given locations and eras.
  • Some trade goods found in the area include shells from Baja, California. There are many shell beads found in this area. Archaeologists also have found red pottery (from the Four Corners area). The people in this area found turquoise and salt that they mined to use for trade and they also grew cotton.
Abandonment: 1150 AD
  • There was increased population and a prolonged drought. Though the indigenous people stored food for drought, by the third year of drought there was little food remaining. There was also pressure from outside groups. Archaeologists have identified a breakdown in trade with other regions. There may have also been disease, but there is no evidence to support this assertion.
  • The abandonment occurred after 1,000 years of constant habitation in the area.
  • People were buried in the floor of an abandoned room in a flexed position.
Southern Paiute: 1200 AD
  • The Southern Paiute indicated that they have always been here. Archaeological information shows a change in arrow points and pottery. When Spanish travelers came through this area, the Southern Paiute tribe were here. Their culture included master weavers.
  • Water jugs were woven baskets covered with pine pitch. By the 1800s, the Southern Paiutes focused on creating artistic baskets, using their craft to sell and trade for food. The Southern Paiute “treasure baskets” are among the finest in the West.
Explorers and trappers including Jedediah Smith came through this area and did not note that the dwellings were very old.

In the 1920s, the Lost City area became a region of archaeological focus. By 1935, the Hoover Dam building project was underway and it was clear that Lake Mead would cover much of the region’s treasures. To address this issue, the Civilian Corps of Engineers came and preserved as much as they could before the Colorado River flooded.

Even today, there are new items found on a regular basis. By law, builders must report when they find human remains, but not when finding other artifacts. Many areas still need excavating, but funds are simply not available or areslow in coming.

There were cultural connections between the people here at the Lost City and those at the Springs, but it is unknown whether they had familial connections.

Some available resources include Intrigue of the Past: A Teacher’s Activity Guide for Fourth through Seventh Grades published by Shelly Smith, Jeanne Moe, Kelly Letts, and Danielle Paterson and the related text titled Discovering Archeology in Nevada. Kathy August (at the Redrock Visitor’s Center) does archaeological trainings in Nevada using these curricular materials. The materials are both science and social studies focused. A more content-specific resource is from the Desert Research Institute called Reading the Stones: The Archeology of Yucca Mountain. It was illustrated by William Hartwell and David Valentine with illustrations by Susan Edwards and contributions by Kelly Varley.

Ethno-archeology: Archaeologists sit and live with a Bedouin group of people and record what they observe. Then, they excavate the site and see if the patterns of the ground correlate with what they observed. This is a means of determining whether archaeologists accurately interpret archaeological finds.

Hunter/gathers probably worked much fewer than 40 hours per week so they had more leisure time then we do. There is evidence that they played dice games and games with balls.

The Civilian Conservation Crops, a program within Roosevelt’s New Deal, built the Lost City Museum in the early 1940s. Camps came in many forms such as flood control projects, rural electrification administrations, dam building and repair projects, etc. The CCC was responsible for much migration around the country that resulted in intermarrying of families across the country. For more information on the Corp, Eva recommends The Civilian Conservation Corps in Nevada: From Boys to Men by Renee Crona Kolvet and Victoria Ford.

Eva Jensen and Dr. Linda Miller have worked together to develop a curriculum about Early Nevadans.

Environmentalism in Nevada
Presented by Jeff Hinton

An audio of Jeff's presentation is available here.

Western historians ask whether the West is an "exceptional" place. Throughout history, deserts have been considered wastelands. They are characterized as being hostile and foreboding or places to be exploited. Even John Muir was not complimentary of Nevada’s desert. Freemont was the most detailed in describing early Nevada geography. He included “revolting” in his description of Southern Nevada. He could not decide which of the deserts was the most “despicable,” but Lovelock and Las Vegas rated very high. Wilderness and wasteland have been used synonymously historically. John Christianson related the harshness of the wilderness with the harshness of life through metaphor. Others see the desert as a place of sublime beauty.

How did the Las Vegas desert change from being inhospitable to preferential? Some of the earliest descriptions of Las Vegas come from Mormon missionaries. Brigham Young recognized a need for supply routes in proximity to Salt Lake City and California (the Mormon gateway to the world because of its horticultural possibilities). Las Vegas served as a desert oasis for weary, parched travelers, There was a 50-mile trek between the Muddy and Virgin Rivers called the Journey of Death. There was no water between the two locations. It would take about 27 hours to cross this part of the trail. Some defined the area as “dreary.”

Samuel Clemens wrote Roughing It of his time in the West. In the text, he wrote that Southern Nevada was a "hideous," "lifeless" place.

Wilderness is a concept of Western thought. Wilderness was the antithesis of paradise and subduing the wilderness became a goal of Westerners. Many even identified wilderness with evil, because of Biblical connotations. There was a fear and loathing of wilderness, identified even by the Pilgrims of the Eastern shore of North America. Some feared that spending time in the wilderness would return them to a savage state. Therefore, pioneers had to take on a military stance when entering the wilderness and saw the wilderness as something to be conquered. As Americans shift westward, they take their European views of wilderness with them.

With the Industrial Revolution, many began to rethink wilderness. There was new emphasis on appreciating nature. Romantics were instrumental in the shift in thinking about wilderness and nature. In the 1900s, John Muir begins to describe nature as a religious place. He challenged people to think about the costs and benefits of taming the wilderness (e.g., building Hoover Dam therefore flooding the region).

Jeff read about the environmental effects of mining on public land. Laws from 1872 allowed mining to contaminate our region and the long-term results of that mining.

Curriculum and the Lost City
Presented by Dr. Linda Miller

Linda worked with Eva Jensen developing curricula called Teaching with Historic Places. It appears on the website for the National Register of Historic Places (

Linda gave groups of four attendees a primary source artifact and asked us to analyze it using pre-made analysis sheets. These sheets are available at

Sunday, August 5, 2007

WtP: Pictures

Thank you to all my new mentors and friends for a wonderful week learning about the We the People curriculum. You can access our photos on Flickr at our We the People — Nevada site.

I will miss you all and look forward to seeing you in your classrooms and at future social studies events!

I do have some bad news...
TeacherTube experienced an error between July 24 and August 14. All videos uploaded during the Institute were lost on their server (where I was storing the videos because they were so memory intensive). I'm very sad to say, I no longer have copies of the videos taken during the Institute.

WtP: Simulated Hearing

Our week at the We the People Summer Institute concluded with a simulated Congressional hearing with esteemed judges (organized by Shane) including:
  • Judy Simpson — "The Mother of Civic Education in Nevada"
  • Dr. Kathy Obenchain — University of Nevada, Reno
  • Martha Gould — Washoe County School District
  • Denny Gear — Teacher
  • Fred Lokan
  • Travis Souza
  • Marcus White — Harry Reid's Office

The Judges in the Courtroom

A View of the Courtroom

Judges were introduced individually with special recognition of Judy Simpson for her passion for civic education and how this passion has driven civic education in Nevada as well as internationally. She has been training individuals in the We the People program for 21 years.

Congressional Hearings

The Unit 1 judges took their places and the Unit 1 participants greeted each judge individually while he audience stood. The lead judge read the questions for Unit 1 and the team began to present. This model continued for all units, with changes in judges and Unit teams following each presentation.

A View of the Audience

Units 1 and 5 (Angela's Group)

Units 2 and 4 (Kit's Group)

Units 3 and 6 (Milt's Group)
(This is my awesome E-Team group!)

Saturday, August 4, 2007

WtP: Unit 5 — What does the Bill of Rights protect?

Presented by David Tanenhaus, Ph.D. — University of Nevada, Las Vegas


Note: My notes for this section were less-than-adequate. I give my thanks to a private donor of notes for this cause.

"The First Amendment and how the courts have thought about it. Courts and citizens revisit these cases because they represent fundamental concepts of security and liberty. Interpretations are different during different historical times.

Why do we have a Bill of Rights? People who thought we should not ratify (anti-feds) are responsible for adding it to the Constitution. Federalists thought we should not have it because they did not want enumerated freedoms--if you leave rights out, they will not be available (like privacy). Also, the state constitutions already had bills of rights. Madison initially thought it was not needed, but changed his mind later.

Alien and sedition acts of 1790s--made it almost impossible to criticize the government. Had a sunset clause, as all laws passed during time of crisis should. We may not be thinking clearly during times of crisis.

Why didn't the republican newspaper editors take the govt to the supreme court--no precedent, prior to Marbury v. Madison. Court was made up of federalist judges who might not be unbiased.

What was freedom of the press in 1790? English Law--No prior restraint, but if they publish something harmful, you can prosecute. Some said the first amendment only applied to keeping govt. from restricting publishing something.

Women's voices in the 19th century--women could speak, write, petition. Seneca Falls Declaration of Sentiments echoes the language of the Declaration and first amendment right.

Women were instrumental in the abolition of slavery.
Women's Christian Temperance Union.
World War I--a lot of protests from women. Some people wanted to just call this treason. Espionage act in 1917--still on the books--makes it a crime for anyone to willfully make false statements with intent to interfere with the military success of the U.S. or undermine the morale of soldiers or obstruct the signing up to serve in the military. Postmaster could exclude from mail anything printed that would do these things.
People are starting to go to court to see if their rights are being violated. Paterson v. Colorado 1907 (bad tendency test) Doesn't matter whether what you said is true or false, if it hurts the war effort you can be convicted.

Schenck vs. U.S 1919--clear and present danger test--fire in a crowded theater--justification for limiting freedom of speech.
Over the summer, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes has a change of heart. He hears another case the next year--Abrams v. U.S. Holmes dissents in this case with the clear and present danger test. Modern first amendment theory is based upon his dissent. You get closer to the truth when there are many ideas in the marketplace. "


And, now... back to my notes...

Franklin Roosevelt introduced the four freedoms that became the thinking for modern human rights movements. The freedoms he enunciates in his 1941 state of the Union address to Congress:
  1. Freedom of speech and expression
  2. Freedom of every person to worship God in his on way
  3. Freedom from want ("economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants")
  4. Freedom from fear
Jehovah's Witnesses began engaging in several court cases following the prejudicial treatment of their faith under Hitler's regime. Saluting the flag in public schools was an issue they felt violated their religious beliefs. In 1940, a brother and sister (ages 10 and 12) refused to say the Pledge of Allegiance in school and the children were excluded from school until they agreed to say the Pledge at school. The principal, supported by the school board, refused to let the children even attend part of the school day if they will not say the Pledge. The school board later expelled the children so the father felt no alternative but to appeal the case to the courts. The case was appealed all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court where the cause of the Jehovah's Witnesses won. A brief to the Court argued that our nation differed from Nazi Germany because of our individual rights to religious freedom. Nonetheless, the Court decided in favor of the school district.

Justice Jackson, during World War II, responded to the case of West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, a second Jehovah's Witness case similar to the 1941 case. In his Opinion which overturned the 1941 Opinion, he states: "Compulsory unification of opinion achieves only the unanimity of the graveyard." He argued that if we do not allow people to have dissenting opinions, we will end up eliminating those with those opinions: "Those who begin coercive elimination of dissent soon find themselves exterminating the dissenters." This was the Court's reaction to the Jehovah's Witnesses appeal to not say the Pledge of Allegiance. The Opinion was delivered in 1943.

We ended with a discussion of cases related to students' freedom of speech beginning with Tinker v. DesMoines and continuing with Morse et al. v. Frederick (the "Bong Hits for Jesus" case). The decision in the Morse case was not related to time, manner, and place. In Oyez, it states: "Chief Justice John Roberts's majority opinion held that although students do have some right to political speech even while in school, this right does not extend to pro-drug messages that may undermine the school's important mission to discourage drug use."

Post 9-11 Questions to Debate
  1. Is the war on terrorism a new kind of war?
  2. How do you fight a war on terrorism without sacrificing freedoms or by bcoming terrorists yourselves?
  3. How do you balance liberty and security?

Friday, August 3, 2007

WtP: Nevada We the People Alumni Network

Kim Stanhouse presented on the Nevada We the People Alumni Network (STAR). This is a network of former students who participated in the We the People curricula who make themselves available to assist teachers as they use the curriculum in their classrooms. There are Northern and Southern Nevada networks. To find an individual from this network to support in the classroom, contact Marcia Ellis.

After her presentation, Mark Towell (including ideas from Milt Hyams) presented additional ideas for finding classroom assistance. Angela Orr also noted that she and the other mentors of this Institute are very eager to help teachers to be successful with this curriculum in their individual classrooms. They are willing to make themselves available throughout the school year as teachers implement We the People .

WtP: Pro Se Court

Angela led us in a demonstration lesson of Pro Se Court, a method that uses the jigsaw method to have students argue in court.

She chose a court case, Hazelwood School District vs. Kuhlmeier. We reviewed the article by reading a brief description of the case and the appellate process. She then separated us into three groups, one representing Hazelwood (the petitioners), one group representing the respondents (Kuhlmeier), and the third group being justices. We met in our groups and discussed how to best argue our side of the case. We then returned to the classroom and separated into groups of three people (with one individual representing the petitioners, respondents, and justices).

The petitioners began by arguing their cases and had 90 seconds to present their side. The justice then asked two questions of the petitioners. This was repeated with the respondents and then each group (beginning with the petitioners) was provided 20 seconds for a rebuttal.

The justice then had 1-2 minutes to write her response. All justices moved to the front of the room and each, in turn, read his/her decision.

I was a respondent. In our mock court, Hazelwood School District won with a 4-2 decision. In the real case, Hazelwood also won with a decision of 5-3.

Oyez is a website allowing users to access all Supreme Court decisions. It is easy to access and provides short amount of information on cases. This is a wonderful resource for gaining information for this activity.

WtP: Unit 4 — How have the protections of the Bill of Rights been developed and expanded?

Presented by David Tanenhaus, Ph.D. — University of Nevada, Las Vegas

The notion of a living constitution is that the inherent structure is relatively stable and is accepted as the higher law of the land.

David began with a discussion of Justice Thurgood Marshall's "Commentary: Reflections on the Bicentennial of the United States Constitution." Next, we discussed Sanford Levinson's "Why I Did Not Sign the Constitution: With a Chance to Endorse It, I Had to Decline." He also addressed the issue, as did Leeson and Casper, of a lack of an explanation of the term "citizen" in the Constitution.

Many scholars would argue that understanding our Constitution requires moving beyond the formal Constitution (see below) toward a close and thorough review of court precedents, habits, understanding, and attitudes.

Key Elements of the Formal Constitution:
  • 1787: U.S. Constitution
  • 1789: Bill of Rights
  • 1795: 11th Amendment
  • 1804: 12th Amendment
The Dred Scott Case (1857)

Dred Scott, his wife, and children were owned by a doctor and soldier. The family owning the Scotts took their family and slaves into a free territory. Scott asked why he shouldn't be free if living in a free territory.

The main question set before the Supreme Court was whether children of imported slaves could ever attain full citizenship. Taney answered that without an amendment to the U.S. Constitution, blacks could never become full U.S. citizens. This concept alone would probably not been enough to inflame the north into the Civil War. The decision further argued that it was not possible to abolish slavery in the territories because of Constitutional provisions relating to property. This was the first time in U.S. history that the Supreme Court struck down major legislation.

The fear of the Northerners was that another Dred Scott was on its way that would result in creating slave states from non-slave states. They were worried there was an effort to nationalize slavery.

At this point, the people thought of the Constitution as a static document that they could not change. However, the only way to make a change was to amend the Constitution. The people saw the Constitution, Bill of Rights, and Bible as sacred documents.

It took the Civil War for Americans to accept that they were able to have a living, evolving Constitution.

The Civil Rights Act (1866) states that blacks and whites have the same rights.

The Fourteenth Amendment (1868)

The goal of the Amendment was to overturn the Dred Scott decision as well as overturn other court cases that did not recognize blacks as equal citizens. The first Section establishes natural-born citizenship for both the United States and your resident state (dual citizenship). Though it guarantees "privileges and immunities," it does not specify these privileges and immunities.

This amendment established natural-born citizenship to both the nation and resident states (dual citizenship) in addition to due process of law (The "Due Process Clause"). It also adds an "Equal Protection Clause."
  • Privileges and Immunities Clause: Our rights as U.S. citizens are very limited according to the Supreme Court in the Slaughterhouse cases. It had originally seemed that this would be the mot important part of the Amendment, but court decisions over time have made this clause of less-than-expected importance.
Civil Rights Act (1875): Public accommodations cannot discriminate against people because of race.

Civil Rights Cases (1883): The Supreme Court questions whether it was acceptable for Congress to pass acts related to state discrimination. Though it ensures no discrimination within states, the decision does not extend to individuals.

Harlan was a slave owner who changed his mind about slave ownership and later became a Justice of the Supreme Court. He wrote a dissenting opinion that the 13th and 14th Amendments did change the fundamental law and reiterated that it was Congress, not the Courts, had the power to write legislation.

Plessy vs. Ferguson (1896) supports the Jim Crow laws that were established between 1883 and 1896). Note that these laws were started in the north. The South, because slavery was still in force, did not need these laws - they were already discriminating against the blacks. Some of the elements included in the Jim Crow laws that limited people from voting (poll tax, literacy, "reasonable interpretations" of the Constitution, and tests about the government). There were recommendations to have separate everything from rail cars to different bibles on which to testify in court. In the Plessy decision, Brown stated you cannot legislate morality. The decision ended by stating that if the state laws were "reasonable," they could pass any laws they would like. Justic Harlan wrote a dissenting opinion in which he said this decision would be as disastrous as the Dred Scott decision.

Incorporation is the concept that the 14th Amendment extends all Amendments in the Bill of Rights to individual citizens (instead of the rights being limited to only the states). Based on court cases, not all rights have yet been incorporated so they relate to individual rights. The 2nd (bear arms) and 3rd (quartering soldiers) have not yet been incorporated under the 14th Amendment.

WtP: A Night at the Beach

One night the Institute leaders and mentors led us on a jaunt to the beach. There, we swam, drank, talked, and climbed on the rocks until very late. My favorite was swimming, climbing on the rocks, and getting to know the other Institute participants. The people here are GREAT!

Thursday, August 2, 2007

WtP: Introduction to Project Citizen

Marcia Ellis introduced the Institute attendees to Project Citizen. She requested that we inform her if we use Project Citizen or other civic education programs in our classrooms so they can track use of the program. Pam Bledsoe also presented on aspects of her students' experiences.

Project Citizen is a program for youth, young adults that teaches them the process of public policy.

Public Policy: A law, regulation, or procedure enacted by a governing body that impacts the community.

Steps in Project Citizen:
  1. Students identify public policy issues within their community they would like to address. As a class, they need to determine which problems are of the greatest interest to the entire class. They may wish to do research on their questions over a period of time. Ideally, the class will come to consensus on their chosen topic.
  2. Select a problem for the class.
  3. Students research the issue learning the history related to the issue and perspectives of other communities and their "constituents" on the issue.
  4. The class develops a "portfolio" that takes the form of a poster. The poster must explain their problem, provide alternative policies, the student-selected proposed solution, and suggestions for implementation.
  5. Students deliver a presentation to a "public" audience.
  6. Students reflect on their experience.
It is critical that this process is student-led, even if the teacher does not agree with the public policy issue or solutions they choose.

Marcia also introduced us to the They Had a Dream, Too video (available online) and curriculum, inTime Classroom's All But My Life, and two books:
I also recommended the Teaching Tolerance resources and Julia and Dan recommended Holocaust resources available in Las Vegas, Nevada. Marcia said she would share websites of civic education organizations with the group. These are available at: In addition, I recommend my social studies Delicious site.

WtP: "How Should Representative Smith Vote"

Our entire Institute group had the opportunity to engage in a simulated public hearing on the topic of smoking. One individual, Julia, was assigned the role of Representative Smith and Brien and Bonnie were her staff. The rest of the group was separated into four groups:
  1. Tobacco Growers and Processors
  2. Citizens for Freedom
  3. Citizens for a Smoke-Free Environment
  4. Citizens for Better Health
Each group had twenty minutes to write a 1-2 minute statement to deliver to the Representative. Groups were called up to give their statements and each was then asked 1-2 follow-up questions by the Representative and her staff.

My group (Stephanie, Richard, Jhordan, and me) was "Citizens for Freedom." We first established that it is well known that smoking is hazardous. We then sited our freedoms from the Bill of Rights and U.S. Constitution, provided examples of areas where our freedoms have been violated, and then offered a strong conclusion.

This is what I said for my section:
The federal government has already usurped our individual rights through seatbelt laws, regulating freedom of speech on the airways, and searches under the Patriot Act. If permitted to once again violate our natural rights, we question how far the national government will continue to go in limiting our rights. Te people of the United States need to ensure we are not allowing our government to completely control our lives.
Following the activity, we debriefed the lesson as if we were K-12 students and then debriefed it as teachers.

This lesson appears on pp. 104-107 of the elementary school We the People textbook.

WtP: Unit 3 — How did the values and principles embodied in the Constitution shape American institutions and practices?

Presented by Dr. Scott Casper — University of Nevada, Reno

Through primary document research, we learn more about the thinking behind the basis of our government. For example, to understand a single aspect of the Constitution, it is helpful to read the Federalist ad Anti-Federalist papers. Scott provided us with a list of web-based repositories of primary source documents. The sites included on the form were:

I also recommend Kathy Schrock's primary source documents site and my social studies webliography where I am trying to archive all these resources.

Political Parties in 1787

Scott presented on three separate viewpoints from the late 18th century.
  1. Factions/political parties were evils that should be repressed.
  2. Factions/parties will exist, but they must remain in check. They are controlled by the few that can become corrupt. No single faction can take over so all must be balanced in some way.
  3. Factions/parties are people working together on a particular issue. When there are factions within the government, there will be a process of discussion and reasoning that will result in the "truth." If these faction exist, instead, in the republic (outside of the government), it is means for civil war. Therefore, factions can be a good thing.
Scott walked us carefully through Federalist #10 and diagrammed its main concepts. See the diagram we created during the lecture below.

The Two Party System

Political parties are lasting coalitions of people that seek offices in government. Their mission is to link leaders in government to a significant population. A party is a link between the center of government and the people at large. Each party has a specific agenda. A competitive party system is system in which there are parties that cannot discount each other because each party is powerful. The public good in this system is obtained by addressing myriad issues. Both parties in a bi-party system seek the public good, but there is a recognition that there may be different methods of reaching the common good.

Factions do not have to be durable and they can exist within or outside of a political party. Faction politics is fluid — they come and go, sometimes being successful, sometimes addressing only contemporary issues. Political parties are more deliberate and organized than factions.

The History of Parties in the United States

The origin of the two-party system in the U.S. date to the 1790s. The Federalists and Anti-Federalists disbanded after the ratification of the Constitution because they no longer had a cause to support it. The individuals in these factions remained in politics following the ratification, even though they had very different views.

Division occurring following the ratification were the argument over a Bank of the United States and the proper method for dealing with the French Revolution. In terms of the French Revolution, Washington recommended neutrality. Many saw this as "selling out" the French and individuals and small groups began to meet to address the issue. People in the administration supporting neutrality called themselves "federalists." Those wishing to support the French came to be known as republicans. In the election of 1796, John Adams (a federalist) became President and Thomas Jefferson (a republican) became Vice President. The democratic republican clubs began to develop. Adams and Jefferson despised one another and Jefferson started bankrolling newspapers that criticized Adams.

The Alien and Sedition Acts were passed. They stated that speaking against the government was considered sedition and printing anti-governmental ideas led to imprisonment.

In the election of 1800, Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr (both republicans) were elected and tied so the House of Representatives had to make the decision . Alexander Hamilton argued that Jefferson was the lesser of the two dangers ("I detest Jefferson, but Burr is dangerous"). Jefferson was, therefore, chosen to be President.

In Jefferson's inaugural address of 1801, he says "we are all federalists; we are all republicans." He was seeking to combine everyone into a single party seeking the common good. By 1804, the federalist party had disintegrated. In 1820, Monroe supported the idea of not having political parties. The basis for disagreement then became their state affiliation. In 1824, states put up their own candidates, but none of the candidates received a majority. The three candidates receiving the most votes were sent to the House of Representatives, and Adams was selected to be President (even though he didn't win the vote of the electoral college).

Politics mostly worked by family affiliations and the families with which individuals aligned. Martin VanBuren believed that it would be better to align with people with common political views, rather than familial affiliations. He argued that the people should have the opportunity to choose a belief system to support, not a single person. Then, the winning individual could choose to bring in his own supporters into the cabinet. He suggested the development of a political party that would represent Jacksonian ideas. Van Buren thought a political party that would unite the people across state lines. This would create a stronger republic and would assist in overcoming the slavery issue.

Jackson engages in many controversial issues like raising tariffs and threatening to send in troops to support his issues. He engaged in enough controversial activities around the country that a faction formed to show their dislike of Jackson. This party became the whig party and they rallied around trying to win the presidential election. The republicans also wanted to win the election.

By the 1850s, the whig party was disbanding because their common interests had changed. The major dividing issue was slavery. Northern whigs, northern democrats, and anti-slavery advocates joined to call themselves the republican party in 1854. By 1856, the republicans were able to become the second major political party, replacing the whigs.

In 1896, the parties are separated along state lines which are further separated by the north and south.

Roosevelt's New Deal brought the mid-western farmers, southern whites, and northern workers into the Democratic Party. This was called the New Deal Coalition and the democrats won most of the elections between 1932 and 1964 when the Civil Rights Movement began. After the Civil Rights era, southerners started to split into whites choosing the Republican Party and the blacks choosing the Democratic Party. Today, Democrats tend to win the west coast and north and Republicans tend to win the mid-west and south.

The history of the American party system:
  1. Federalists versus Jeffersonian Republicans
  2. Almost everyone calls themselves Democrat Republicans (1801-1824)
  3. Democrats versus the Whigs (1855-1896)
  4. Democrats and Republicans (1896-1928) — The republicans maintained the majority in all but two elections
  5. New Deal Coalition (1932-1964)
  6. Democrats versus Republicans (1980s-today)
The agenda of the democratic and republican parties have almost completely "flip-flopped" over the last century.

The Point of Political Parties

Political parties provide glue between our separate branches ensuring that the checks of the system will not always stop the development of new legislation. The party systems works together while the Constitution tries to keep keep things separate.

Parties also connect the people with the national government by serving as a communication avenue between the two entities.

WtP: Federalist/Anti-Federalist Debate

Separate students into two large groups, calling one the Federalists and the other the Anti-Federalists. Within each group, assign one student a concept from the U.S. Constitution (e.g., republicanism, federalism, senate). Allow all students 20 minutes of individual work to develop a 60 second position statement and 20 second rebuttal for the position.

Invite all students back to the classroom and separate them into their groups, seating them in order of the words to be debated.

Have one student from each side approach the podium. Let the Anti-Federalists begin the debate, having their opportunity to present their opening statement. Let the Federalist debater then have their one minute opportunity to state their position. Allow the Anti-Federalist to rebut the Federalist statement in 20 seconds and then the Federalist the same opportunity.

After the debate, have "judges" determine which team won by evaluating each pair of debaters.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

WtP: Unit 2 — How Did the Framers Create the Constitution?

Presented by Dr. Scott Casper — University of Nevada, Reno

Scott was introduced as a master teacher and quickly convinced us this was true by greeting us with smiles and memorizing all of our names.

Teaching American History Resources

Scott introduced Teaching American History, a website that presents the Constitutional Convention as a play in Four Acts, each Act separated into Scenes. Features of the site include:
The Basis for the Constitutional Convention

The reason for the Convention was to suggest amendments to the Articles of Confederation because they didn't believe the Articles were working effectively. Many of the individuals as this Convention also were officers within the Continental Congress.

Representatives: Individuals that exist to serve a population and are part of a body and engage in persuasive dialog.

At the time of the Convention, there were several systems of representation the Framers knew including the British government, colonial governments, and Articles of Confederation government.

The British government was led by the king who represented himself and his family, the House of Lords represented the nobility (and tied to a specific population), and the House of Commons represented everyone else. Districts were divided by geographic area within Great Britain, not by human demographics.

An argument of the Framers was taxation without representation. Britain argued that the House of Commons represented all the common people, regardless of whether they live in Great Britain. The colonies borrowed much of the British system of government.

The government of the colonies was represented by a governor appointed by the king and representatives of the constituents to their assemblies. The states write new constitutions that include very strong legislative bodies and very weak governors.

Under the Articles of Confederation, the government had very specific enumerated powers that together formed a "firm league of friendship." Thirteen states sent representatives to the "United States in Congress Assembled." They were simply a league, a meeting of the states. Each state had one vote, not represented by population or geographic size. To change the Articles of Confederation, all thirteen states had to agree to all amendments. There was never a time when all thirteen states could agree. This led to significant disappointment by the people because they could not effectively change the Articles. The leaders were very aware of the weaknesses of the Articles and many left Congress when their terms expired because of their disappointment in the system. Issues including currency were very problematic.

The Constitutional Convention

The Framers chose to have the Constitutional Convention in private and began by setting rules. Some of these included the use of civic discourse (all individuals were given opportunities to hear out one another until presented ideas were understood by all), no one could speak twice before everyone had the opportunity to speak once, all issues could be revisited.

Proposals at the Constitutional Convention

Over the first month of the Convention, the main topics were representation and the branches of power. These were addressed in three proposed plans.

Dr. Casper separated us into three groups and gave each group a separate plan. Without telling us, one group received the Virgina Plan (Madison's Plan), one group (mine) received the New Jersey Plan, and a third group received Hamilton's Plan. We were asked to read the plans in our groups and draw a picture representing the plan. All groups chose to draw forms of concept maps, and then each group presented their plan. Scott then informed us of the history related to the plans and reviewed the level of central power existing within each of the plans.

The Virginia Plan

The New Jersey Plan

Hamilton's Plan

The Great Compromise

Madison was concerned that the Virginia Plan was not favorable during the Convention. One problem was that both houses of the legislative branch were elected by the people and divided based on population. The Great Compromise was to have two houses of the legislature with one having a varied number of representatives based on state populations and the other having the same number of representatives for each state. This compromise was considered a failure to Madison because it gave the states (rather than the people) more power than under the Virginia Plan. The next question was about deciding how to determine the voting population of a state (e.g., property owners, slaves, women).

Part of the Constitution requires a census every ten years. Additionally, the Constitution does not describe how to do the census so every decade new laws need to be developed for the upcoming census. They were recognizing the need of the Constitution to address the growth of the nation.

The Constitution addresses the issue of slavery, without using the word "slavery" in four areas.

  • In the Articles of Confederation, addressing taxation was based on the value of "improved land" within a state (meaning that the land has been changed by the people through construction). Assessing this land, however, was problematic. There was a proposed amendment to the Articles that would change the "improved land" clause to a population-based number which includes slaves being counted as 3/5 of a person. The amendment did not pass, but it was still in the minds of the Framers when it came to the Constitutional Convention. Taxation of states was another problem. The problem was slave owners wanted their slaves included in the Constitution because they wanted more representatives in Congress, but they did not want them included because this would mean they would be taxed more. This is what led to the 3/5 clause of the Constitution. In the original clause of the Constitution, indentured servants were included for the purposes of taxation and representation, but non-taxed Indians and slaves were not included.
  • The Southern states that were most interested in the slave trade were Georgia and South Carolina. These states did not have the numbers of slaves that the other Southern States had because they were still establishing their states and they had still had small populations. This leads to the clause that no change in slave importation could occur before 1808.
  • The Constitution supported that state laws governed slavery by supporting extradition of escaped slaves.
  • The Constitution also addresses slave rebellions in Article 4, Section 4 where it addresses "domestic violence."
The issue of slavery was not resolved in the Constitution, nor was the issue of citizenship and voting rights. They did not deal with these issues because they knew they would not be able to come to consensus.

The power of the presidency was also a concern because its powers were never enumerated. They did this, in part, because they knew they would elect Washington and they would allow him to create the office through his experience, and, in part, this occurred because the issue was discussed at the end of the Convention when they were tired. They spent more time determining how to elect the president than what the president would do. They chose not to use direct election because the states could decide who would vote and they could allow all their children and women vote if they wanted to win an election. Using a method that would allow the legislators to choose the president would leave the executive in a position in which he was beholden to the legislators. The electoral college was a compromise because it included representatives based on population as well as statehood. Another benefit, for some members of the Convention, was that the electoral college would allow a group of wise, educated individuals to choose the president.

The End of the Convention

Several of the delegates have left the Convention before it concludes for a myriad of reasons, primarily because of a lack of support of the document. The Constitution was required to have support of nine of the thirteen states. To get it considered for ratification, it was published in newspapers and, immediately, the press begn publishing letters stating opinions about the document. Had the vote been taken when originally reduced, the U.S. Constitution probably would not have passed. It was critical that New York and Virginia ratified the document. Some states ratify the Constitution quickly because they are small states or because they would gain economic benefits because the center of government would be in their state (Pennsylvania).

The Federalist/Anti-Federalist Papers

The Federalists were truly nationalists, but they chose the term because it gave the impression that they were more in alignment with federal views. The writers of the federalist and anti-federalist papers used pseudonyms because they could have their ideas received as ideas, rather than having them associated with their individual personalities. The names they used were mostly classical and Roman, like Brutus.

Scott then worked us through the process of reading primary documents very closely. The people of 1787 were very literate including 90% of white males and they are written very technically. Argument, language, and context are critical in documents and this is what a carefully reading addresses. He recommends we ask "What language is the author using and why?" He then carefully walked us through the Anti-Federalist argument by Brutus on October 18, 1787.

WtP: Nevada State Standards and Representative Democracy in America

Mark led this section and directed us to paperwork showing the correlation between the We the People curriculum and the Nevada social studies standards. These are also available online.

Kit then presented on Representative Democracy in America.

Representative Democracy in America

This is one of the programs of the Center for Civic Education.

They run a back-to-school program intended to get legislators into classrooms. When they come, they will bring a variety of items:
Kit then introduced us to the Center for Congress at Indiana University. The site is resource-rich for both students and teachers and includes many simulations for use in classrooms. Two simulations used and recommended by teachers at the Institute include:
  • The Impact of Congress
  • Federal Budget Allocation
Both are available from

We then viewed part of the Representative Democracy in America video and engaged in a lesson from p. 71 of the Representative Democracy in America video series instructional guide. In our group, we had to argue why the executive branch we should have more power. We came to these suggestions:
  • Should happen because the executive branch is represented by every U.S. citizen and "The executive power shall be vested in the President of the U.S.A." (U.S. Constitution, Article I, Section 1.1), we were chosen into this position because of our wisdom
  • The President in office remains in office until the President is recalled or dies
  • Suspend the writ of habeas corpus
  • Enforce ex post facto laws
  • Unanimous vote of Congress is needed to override a veto
  • Congress cannot adjourn or recess until their agenda is complete
  • Only the executive officer receives a paycheck
  • We can change members the judicial branch at will
  • Remove the idea of Advice and Consent of the Senate for any appointments or treaties
After having each branch present its ideas, Kit presented us with the question: "Did the Framers get it right?"

WtP: Taboo Game

Mark solicited two volunteers from each mentor group and they were excused from the room. The volunteers entered, one group of two at a time and they faced each other. The person facing the wall was able to see 10 vocabulary words. The person who could see the words had 1 minute and 15 seconds to give definitions for the words while the person who could not see the words guessed them.

  1. Citizen
  2. Alien
  3. Civil Disobedience
  4. Classical Republicans
  5. Civic Virtue
  6. Common Good
  7. Human Nature
  8. Natural Rights
  9. Social Contract
  10. Continental Congress

WtP: Evening at Lake Tahoe

In the evening, several of the WtP attendees walked to Lake Tahoe.

I walked along the beach and found a wonderful creek and took lots of pictures. See below.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

WtP: Mentor Group — Beginning Work on Our Hearing

Following the "hearing train" activity, each group met separately to begin refining our group statement. Below is our combined statement.

Unit Six, Question Three
Do all citizens have the responsibility to participate in the political life of the nations? Why or why not?
  • If citizens should participate, what forms should that participation take?
  • Is civil disobedience ever a justified form of political participation? Explain your position.

  1. Bonnie: All citizens have the responsibility to participate in the political life of the nation. They have the responsibility to participate in the political life of the nation. They have responsibility to become informed voters and to vote in all elections. They should also be willing to assist their government to the best of their ability. Assistance could be in the form of writing their approval or disapproval to officially be willing to serve in offices or serve on a jury. Government by the people means we need to be involved in whatever way suits our talents and times. The government work best when all are involved.
  2. Susan: Furthermore, citizen's responsibilities are: 1.) vote; 2.) volunteer; 3.) run for office; 4.) serve; and, 5.) stay current and hold offices; 6.) serve on juries and being accountable. These are a few ways the citizens participate in the government.
  3. Tara: Expanding on that idea, to become effective citizens in a constitutional democracy we need to understand our roles and responsibilities in our government as well as their responsibilities to us as citizens. We also need to understand how our system was set-up and organized.
  4. Christy: Therefore, citizens of the U.S. have the opportunity to change laws and policies using many methods. Ideally, citizens would be pleased with the laws and policies in place because they had the opportunity to vote for and elect officials to represent their interests. If voting for specific representatives does not prove to meet the needs of an individual citizen, s/he has the right to petition for change. If the petition still fails to meet the needs of the citizen, the citizen may choose to run for, and possibly be elected to office him/herself. If elected, however, the individuals is still responsible to address the desires of the people s/he serves. If the people disagree with the individual, as a representative or not, Americans have the opportunity to speak to their personal interests and assemble to further discuss the issues. Furthermore, they may take advantage of a free press to address the issue. Should the individual's preference still prove unacceptable to the general population, there are several possibilities. Under the ideal of classical republicanism, the individual may simply accept the law or policy, recognizing it is in the best interest of the entire community, or the individual may challenge the law. To challenge the law, the individual must begin by questioning whether the law or policy aligns with the fundamental law of the land. If it does not, the citizen is encouraged, within the Declaration of Independence and through precedence set via the 1960s Civil Rights Movement, to engage in civil disobedience.
  5. Bill: Civil disobedience is justified as a form of political participation when the government and its laws have been become unjust. The person that wishes to perform civil disobedience should be very careful when they choose to do so. They should only disobey the law that is unjust and not simply break a law for the sake of breaking it. As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. states in his Letter from a Birmingham jail, “One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that an unjust law is no law at all…’ All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality.” For example, during the 1960s American civil rights movement, the participants felt very strongly about only breaking the unjust Jim Crow segregation laws. They would violate an unjust state court ruling, but would never violate a ruling from a federal judge because the federal system was the greatest ally for the members of the movement.
  6. Richard: On the other hand, Martin Luther King, Jr. also stated in his letter from Birmingham Jail: "Justice too long delayed is justice denied" helps to answer the question of what [greater] potential negative consequence of civil disobedience in a democratic society. The opportunity may have passed for the right time to act. Other consequences include lack of planning, misunderstanding of the problem, a backlash from the majority that counteracts the initial disobedience. Or on the most simple level the action just does not work.

WtP: Aboard the Hearing Train

This lesson, presented by Marcia Ellis, assists in getting students started with the writing process.

Students are separated into groups. Each group receives a set of questions, one per individual, from their unit. Each individual randomly chooses one question from the group of questions and develops a 2-3 sentence response to the question. After three minutes of writing, we wrote our responses on a car of a paper train. These cars were taped t oa wall in the order they should be presented and we taped transition words/phrases between each car.

My group's question was from Unit 6: "4. How might a person go about changing a law or policy with which he or she disagrees?"

My response, below, was written very quickly as is replete with technical inaccuracies. Nonetheless, I think it's a good start:

"Citizens of the U.S. have the opportunity to change laws and policies using many methods. Ideally, citizens would be pleased with the laws and policies in place because they had the opportunity to vote for and elect officials to represent their interests. If voting for specific representatives does not prove to meet the needs of an individual citizen, s/he has the right to petition for change. If the petition still fails to meet the needs of the citizen, the citizen may choose to run for, and possibly be elected to office him/herself. If elected, however, the individuals is still responsible to address the desires of the people s/he serves. If the people disagree with the individual, as a representative or not, Americans have the opportunity to speak to their personal interests and assemble to further discuss the issues. Furthermore, they may take advantage of a free press to address the issue. Should the individual's preference still prove unacceptable to the general population, there are several possibilities. Under the ideal of classical republicanism, the individual may simply accept the law or policy, recognizing it is in the best interest of the entire community, or the individual may challenge the law. To challenge the law, the individual must begin by questioning whether the law or policy aligns with the fundamental law of the land. If it does not, the citizen is encouraged, within the Declaration of Independence and through precedence set via the 1960s Civil Rights Movement, to engage in civil disobedience."

After we completed our trains, each group read their collective statements in order.

WtP: Middle School Meeting

Angela Orr led five educators (Jennifer, Bonnie, Christina, Julia, and me) to learn ways to teach the WtP curriculum with middle level learners.

The full middle level curriculum can be delivered in six weeks if following the book directly. Angela recommends using the book in order and using the entire curriculum. It is possible to use sections of the text, substituting them for units currently being taught. Regardless of the amount of the text the teacher chooses to use, it is imperative the students engage in the congressional hearing. The skills they gain through this process is critical to developing 21st Century Skills.

Using units 1, 2, 5, and 6 are probably the best chapters to use if you cannot use the entire curriculum. Students can read in class or out of class (if there are enough books). When reading in class, encourage "Think Alouds."

Unit 1

One teacher has her students study Unit 1 (chapters 2, 3, 4, and 5) at the beginning of the school year, spending one day per lesson. When finished, the class spends a day to develop their class rules.

Unit 2 (Articles of Confederation, Shay's Rebellion, Need for a Constitution)

The WtP text focuses more on the basics and understandable concepts than other 7th grade U.S. history texts. This is a nice unit to substitute for what is addressed in other textbooks. Some teachers use this unit as a precursor to the Civil War. The unit helps students gain a strong understanding of the Constitution.

Unit 5

Students love this unit because there is lots of debate about what they believe. It is particularly good at the end of the year when students are losing interest and need controversy to revive them.

Unit 6

This is a nice unit to bring in current issues and events. A great way to end the school year is talking about citizenship and their personal responsibilities.

Sponge Activity Ideas
  • Use the pictures to prompt student inquiry.
  • Use the Lesson Review questions (this can also be homework).
Suggested Content Delivery Methods

The Balloon Game

Students clear their desks of everything but a writing utensil. Hand out a balloon to each child and have them blow them up. Rule 1: No one can get hurt. Rule 2: Love your balloon. Rule 3: Relish it. Rule 4: You must have to have an unpopped balloon at the end of the game. Instruct them the game lasts for 90 seconds and yell "Go"! The students will try top pop everyone's balloons. After 90 seconds, ask "Why didn't you all just sit quietly in your desks so you could all win?" Ask "Why did some people work together to to pop the balloons of others?" Ask: "Why were some people more powerful/better at protecting their balloons?" Ask: "Was this a fair game? Why r why not?" Ask: "If you could have made a more fair game, what what would you have done differently?" These questions should lead to an understanding of the state of nature. After describing the state of nature, have students work in groiups to answer the questions at the end of chapter 2.

Enhancing Vocabulary Instruction

Use kinesthetic moves to teach the vocabulary. Angela Orr developed example movements for the terms below, but videos of these movements, unfortunately, were lost during a server error.
  • Montesquieu: "All governments have power. So you have to separate the powers, balance the powers, and check the powers."
  • Veto: "Veto, Say 'No'! Veto, Say 'No'!"Congress can override the veto.
  • Private Domain
  • Popular Sovereignty
  • Overriding the Veto

After introducing some kinesthetic moves, give them vocabulary words throughout the year and let them create their own moves.

Use vocabulary wheels.

Play Splat: Tape words around the floor, and separate students into teams of two. Give each team a flyswatter. Read a definition and the first team to swat the correct word gets a point.

Have students look at and analyze pictures and cartoons. Using the graphics, allow students to construct their own understanding of vocabulary terms or concepts (e.g., limited powers, suffrage challenges, 14th Amendment).

In Re Gault

This is a lesson from p. 234 of the middle school textbook about due process. The lesson addresses the following Constitutional Amendments:
  • 4th: Reasonable search and seizure
  • 5th: Don't testify against yourself, allows people to remain silent, property can't be taken without just compensation, you must be told why you're being held and there must be a grand jury indictment
  • 6th: Impartial jury, jury before peers, you get a lawyer
  • 8th: Bail and no cruel and unusual punishment
  • 14th: Makes these rights apply to individuals
The teacher reads a manuscript of Gerald Gualt. We were to yell "Stop" whenever we felt that the rights of Gualt was violated. At that point, we would identify the right that had been offended and which amendment secured that right or what might violate other laws or procedures of due process. We would write these answers on an "In Re Gualt" worksheet.

"Is It Protected"

Angela introduced a worksheet that encourages student discussion. The students review statements and must decide if the statement is protected under the First Amendment or not. Example statements include:
  • A man yells: "George Bush is an idiot!"
  • A woman says: "I plan to blow up the Supreme Court tomorrow."
  • A student at school yells: "FIRE!" in the hallway (even though there isn't one), and people start yelling and running in panic.
  • Neo-Nazis want to run a "civilized" parade to memorialize Hitler in an all Jewish community.
  • A group protesting the death penalty picket and shout outside of a court room while trial is in session.
  • A young woman drives her car through a neighborhood using a bull horn to should "I love America!" at 1:00 AM.
Accountable Talk

Angela introduces her students to "Accountable Talk." She gives all each student in the group a number of poker chips. Sometimes, the chips are different colors. For example, each student may receive two red chips and two blue chips. The red chips allow students to make any related statement (e.g., "I feel...") The blue chips might represent comments related to the text or that include a citation to a law, precedent etc.
  • Only one student can speak at a time.
  • You must put in a chip to speak and you cannot speak if you do not have a chip (unless they are encouraging another person to talk).
  • What you say must align with you chip color.
This can be done in a whole group session, separating the students into two large groups, or even using it with small groups of 3-4 students.

Below is a graphic of a handout Angela created to help others better understand using accountable talk in classrooms.

How Does It Relate? Vocabulary

List vocabulary words from the the current chapter of the curriculum in rows of a grid and concepts addressed in multiple chapters from the text. Students work in groups to see how the vocabulary words they are currently learning relate to concepts from other chapters with which they're familiar.