Resources for Civic Education: Learning about State, Local and Federal Government

Democracy Won't Die-

Dr. David J. Childs, D.D., Ph.D.
Northern Kentucky University

Here are some resources for teachers, students and the general public to help them understand the ins and outs of different levels of government. Civic education is of the utmost importance as it helps people know their rights and how to participate in the democratic process. We are posting an article we shared last year that offers tools to help with civic participation.

This article was originally posted May 21, 2021.

Hey teachers, parents and average US citizens, if you have not gotten the chance to check out the I-civics website, you should. It is a great resource for teaching and learning about civics. The tools can help the average person learn about the workings of democracy, as well learn the various processes of local, state and federal government in particular. 

I-Civics is a non-profit organization “that provides educational online games and lesson plans” that “promotes civic education and encourages students to become active citizens.” Their official website states that “I-Civics exists to engage students in meaningful civic learning. We provide teachers well-written, inventive, and free resources that enhance their practice and inspire their classrooms.” The organization was founded by retired Supreme Court of the United States Justice Sandra Day O’Connor in 2008. The organization’s mission is to “ensure every student receives a high-quality civic education, and becomes engaged in – and beyond – the classroom.”

Check out this series of lesson plans on the I-civics site that can help students understand local and state government. Teachers should think about how they might use these resources in their classroom in a creative and meaningful way.

The Capable County- Lesson Plan
At times it may be difficult for the average person to differentiate between the roles of the city and town governments versus the county government. Here is a lesson plan that allows students to explore the role county governments play in the US federalist system. The lesson also helps to shed light on the roles our county government plays in everyday life.

County Basics- WebQuest
Here is a resource that can be used to supplement a lesson plan on county governments. This resource is a WebQuest that further helps one to learn the role and function of county governments.

Counties Work- Game
Here is a simulation game teachers can use in their social studies classrooms to teach students about the ends and outs of running a county. If students are successful at managing things well, they can be re-elected.

State Power: Got a Reservation?- Lesson Plan
Here is a wonderful lesson plan that helps students learn to differentiate between the state and federal government. Students will “discover that states have their own governments and powers separate from the federal government. They learn what those powers are, how they’re different from the federal government’s powers, and that state governments also give power to smaller, local governments.”

The Great State- Lesson Plan
This lesson plan offers an overview of the structure, functions, lawmaking of state governments. The lesson also explores the relationship between state and local government.

States Rule!- WebQuest
This resource is a WebQuest that allows students to explore the differences between various states. Students will also learn about their home state government and its relationship to the federal government.

Comparative Constitutions-Lesson Plan
In this lesson students will explore the similarities and differences between state governments and the federal government by comparing and contrasting “the provisions of the U.S. Constitution alongside the state constitutions of Florida and Virginia.” Students will be able to “find common ways in which state constitutions differ from (and are similar to) the U.S. Constitution.” They will be able to take a closer look at their own state constitution.

Please share what resources you find useful for your teaching.

We are open to feedback and discussion. If you see any typos or grammatical errors please feel free to email the author and editor at the address below:

1 Comment

  1. I think that the tendency in social studies is often to only focus on history. While I do think that being well versed in past events is important, this is only part of what social studies covers. Making sure that students have a strong grasp on the current components of government helps give students a head-start for their futures as active citizens. It seems that often times people feel like the government is something that is outside their power. If we as educators make sure that the next generation is knowledgable in their constitutional rights and adept in their critical thinking abilities, then hopefully we can eliminate the perceived disconnect between the government and the people. After all, the US government is “for the people, by the people.”

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