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September - Government Activators II

“Government Activators and the Presidential Election”

Boston Globe.com


As many of you know, the political season is heating up to a frenzy. Less than two months remain before the general election. Both political parties have had their nominating conventions and have rallied their respective bases to a fevered pitch with rhetorical speeches and campaign slogans. The balloons have fallen. The convention halls have emptied. The banners and signs have been removed. Now comes the final push to the finish line: November 6, 2012. Election Day.


The economy, the size of government, America’s place in the world, the role of special interest groups, the influence of the media, and the campaign itself, which promises to be one of the most expensive and contentious in American history—how will you help your students make sense of all this?


INTERACT’s Government Activators may be able to help. In the interest of full disclosure, I wrote Government Activators Parts I and II. I’ve used these lessons over several years in both middle school and high school. Each lesson contains the best of INTERACT’s active-learning methodology, and each can be conducted in less than a week. Many of the activities are standalones and can be completed in one or two class periods.

The ten lessons in Government Activators, Part I lay the historical foundation of American democracy starting at its English roots and then examining the structure and operation of the three branches of government. The final two lessons examine the history and application of the Bill of Rights. Each of these lessons engages students in authentic activities where they solve problems, make decisions, and negotiate agreements. Students are engaged in activities that explore the fundamental nature of citizens and their government, the rights of man, and challenges of a fledgling nation. They write legislative bills, advise the president on “real-time” issues and conduct case studies that explore the extent of adolescents’ rights.

The six lessons in Government Activators, Part II have students investigate how democratic participatory government operates, examining political campaigns; the powers of the executive branch in foreign policy; the roles of citizens, special interest groups, and the media; and the operation of the federal bureaucracy. These lessons are especially relevant this fall as voters examine crucial issues and make important decisions about the future of the nation.

  • Lesson 1, “Citizenship in a Democracy,” begins with the fundamentals of citizenship as expressed in the 14th Amendment. Students then understand the concept of civic virtue and its role in a democratic society. The lesson culminates with students developing a civic engagement project they can implement in their local community.
  • Lesson 2, “The Federal Bureaucracy,” has students explore the history and purpose of the federal bureaucracy and deliberate over the role and extent of actual federal regulations such as food safety and energy independence.
  • Lesson 3, “U.S. Foreign Policy—The Situation Room,” has students learn that the role of Commander-in-Chief is dependent on the advice of many individuals with competing interests. Students examine international “headline news” incidents and make and defend their recommendations to the president.
  • Lesson 4, “Political Parties, Campaigns, and Elections,” has students organize political campaign organizations, explore current issues and develop campaign materials to promote their candidate or cause.
  • Lesson 5, “Special Interest Groups,” has students learn about the operations of special interest groups and create a special interest group to operate at the local, state or national level. Teachers can opt to have students operate their special interest group as a class project.
  • Lesson 6, “The Media’s Influence on Public Opinion,” has students explore current issues and analyze how the news  affects public opinion.

Government Activators II can help enrich your students’ experiences with the issues surrounding the upcoming election and the future of U.S. politics for many years to come. These lessons provide historical context, graphic handouts, engaging activities, and standards-based assessments to provide students with a deep understanding of the relationship and interactions between U.S. citizens and their government. They can help you guide students through the complex issues of the size of government, America’s place in the world, the role of special interest groups, the influence of the media, and the important issues surrounding the 2012 campaign itself. We invite you to explore Government Activators, Parts I and II through these sample pages for Volume I and Volume II and let us know what you think. If you use any of these lessons in your classes, please let us know about your experiences by commenting on this blog.


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