Are We the People?
Literature and primary documents help youth understand the role of the Constitution for the United States. They overview the three branches of government described in the first three articles and learn that government officials are serving with their time and talent for the common good. With the goal to look for traits of trustworthy officials, youth use the Internet to research their own state officials. They gather data and summarize what they find.
The learner will:
- explain the purpose of the Constitution.
- represent the three branches of government through a graphic organizer.
- identify the state senator, governor, and local representative and describe how they contribute to the common good.
- Interactive Picture of “Scene of the Signing of the Constitution” by Howard Chandler Christy
- Internet copies of the Constitution (refer to https://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution)
- Kid version of the Preamble of the Constitution: We the Kids by David Cattrow or School House Rock: The Preamble
- copies of handout below Services Provided by Local, State, and Federal Governments Anticipation Guide (also includes Spanish version)
- copy of handout below Answer Key for Anticipation Guide (also includes Spanish version)
- copies of handout below Rubric for Government Official Brochure or Newsletter (also includes Spanish version)
Visit a City Hall council meeting or attend a school board meeting with parents and share the information discussed at the meeting with the group.
Display a picture of “Scene of the Signing of the Constitution” by Howard Chandler Christy, and tell youth to look for clues of what these men are doing in the picture. "What do you see? What do you notice about how they are dressed? How can you tell this is an important event?"
These men are writing the Constitution of the United States, which defines how our government is structured and the roles of the people and institutions involved. You can click on people and learn more about them.
The Preamble to the Constitution tells about its purpose, but it is full of big words. Introduce the Constitution's purpose with a kid version of the Preamble of the Constitution: We the Kids by David Cattrow or School House Rock: The Preamble. Discuss what the Preamble tells us about the Constitution.
Emphasize this point: The strength of this document and our way of government is that it is balanced by three branches and monitored "by the people." Our country stays strong if we stay informed and don't let one branch get too much power. We have to learn the facts, listen to others, state our opinions, and discuss. We are The People, and it is our responsibility to stay informed and active.
Note: The entire Constitution is on the Internet. The language is tough for this age group, but it is impressive to see and read parts of this primary document that strongly defines how this country works
Below is a summary of each of the first three Articles. Use your own words to describe how the responsibilities of the three branches of government check and balance the power and responsibility of our leaders.
- Article I: Puts the power to make laws in the legislative branch and covers the rules for forming and running Congress. Congress is divided into two houses, the House of Representatives and the Senate. Basic requirements for candidates for the House and the Senate are stated, and the duties of each house are given. The powers of Congress are also listed.
- Article II: Gives the President the power to carry out the nation’s laws. The President’s term of office is four years, and procedures for electing the President are provided. Requirements for presidential candidates are listed. The President’s powers are enumerated, and finally, it outlines grounds for the impeachment for the President.
- Article III: The Supreme Court is established as the interpreter of laws in case of dispute. All cases over which the judicial branch has power are listed. A definition of treason is stated along with the listing of laws for dealing with treasonable behavior against the United States.
After scanning and discussing the first three Articles, form groups who work together to design a simple graphic organizer to show the main role of each of the branches of government.
Optional Extension: Have youth complete the handout below, Anticipation Guide, to evaluate how much they already know about services provided by local, state, and federal governments.
Assignment: Local Representation and Advocacy
One of our roles as The People is to elect trustworthy people to serve in the Legislative and Executive branches, locally and nationally. Talk about the current elected officials, such as the governor of their state, their State Senator, and State Representative. Assignment: With a small group, look up the record and work of one elected official, summarize the information, and present an opinion with evidence of their effectiveness in working for the common good.
Display the Internet to show where to find the state governor, state senators, and the representative for the area, and how to read about their voting record and what they have done for the state.
Review the Rubric for Government Official Brochure or Newsletter together (handout below). When finished, students will present the project to the class.
- Invite a state representative to talk to the class about their work for the common good.
- Go on a field trip to a city or state government building. Get a tour, sit in the meeting hall, and meet with representatives about an issue the youth care about.
Write a paragraph summary and opinion of what it means that we are the people referenced in the Preamble to the Constitution.
Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
Standard DP 01. Define Philanthropy
Benchmark E.1 Define philanthropy as the giving and sharing of time, talent, or treasure intended for the common good.
Standard DP 02. Roles of Government, Business, and Philanthropy
Benchmark E.1 Give examples of needs met by government, business, civil society, and family.
Benchmark E.6 Explain why acting philanthropically is good for the community, state, nation, or world.
Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
Standard PCS 01. Self, citizenship, and society
Benchmark E.1 Define the word <em>trust</em> and its role in all communities.
Benchmark E.5 Identify one local citizen who has helped the community through giving and/or service.
Standard PCS 05. Philanthropy and Government
Benchmark E.6 Identify and describe fundamental democratic principles.
Standard PCS 07. Skills of Civic Engagement
Benchmark E.4 Analyze information to differentiate fact from opinion based on the investigation of issues related to the common good.