Lesson Plans

The Civics Program offers an array of lesson plans that can be used in conjunction with, or independently of, a Freedom Express visit. See our Plan Your Visit page for lessons and activities that relate directly to the Freedom Express traveling museum.
Press Freedoms in Wartime Cover

Wartime Press Freedoms: From the Pentagon Papers to Wikileaks

A free press plays a vital role in any democratic society by reporting on current events and preventing the government from operating in secrecy. The First Amendment prohibits the government from abridging the rights of a free press so that it may fulfill this role. During times of war, however, the federal government has historically limited freedom of the press, proclaiming a need to preserve national security. The controversy over the disclosure of classified information from the U.S. government via the Wikileaks website is emblematic of the precarious balance between liberty and security. This lesson plan helps students examine the complicated relationship between the press and government during wartime; the tension between liberty and security during wartime; and how technology has shaped this debate. Click the image at left to download the PDF.
Road to the White House 2012 Cover

The Road to the White House: A Simulation of the Presidential Election Process

Developed in 2012, this lesson serves to illuminate the nomination process while promoting media literacy, critical evaluation of candidates and informed participation in this and future elections. Recommended grade levels: 9-12. Click the image at left to download the PDF.
Related Lessons:
Poll Position: Collecting & Analyzing Polling Data
Covering the Campaign Trail: Analyzing Press Coverage
Free Speech & Campaign Finance Reform
News Literacy Lesson Plan

Introduction to News Literacy: Structured Engagement with Current and Controversial Issues

News literacy prepares students to become active and well informed citizens. Encouraging discussion of current events in the classroom allows teachers to demonstrate the relevance of concepts they are teaching in class. This brief lesson plan provides an introduction to news literacy concepts, ideas to broaden the use of news in the classroom and additional resources. Click the image at left to download the PDF.
 

Gay Rights: The Struggle Continues

In recent decades, the subject of gay rights has stood at the intersection of the nation’s culture wars. The push to broaden the scope of civil rights to protect gay rights has coincided with a movement to restore age-old institutions that some perceive as deteriorating. In this lesson plan students will examine the interplay between federal and state law, along with the intimate association between moral codes, religion and law that also play a role in this debate. Through primary source documents and discussion, this lesson enables students to participate in civil discussion on a current and controversial issue. Click the image at left to download the PDF.
To Keep and Bear Arms Lesson Plan

To Keep & Bear Arms: An Individual or Collective Right?

The Second Amendment states that the "right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed." This seemingly unequivocal declaration, however, is rendered ambiguous by the reference to a "well regulated Militia" that precedes it. The construction of this amendment has spawned an enduring debate over whether the amendment guarantees an individual or collective right. This lesson asks students to examine landmark Supreme Court decisions and opposing interpretations of the amendment in order to facilitate comprehension of this complex issue and the develop their own reasoned positions. 
Grades 6-8 (developed in partnership with Teacher Advisory Council member Sheryl Kabak)
Grades 9-12

Click here to download the lesson plan UPDATE: McDonald v. Chicago (2010) court opinion and worksheet.
What is an American? Lesson Plan

What is an American? An Immigration Policy Seminar

This lesson plan features four primary sources related to immigration legislation. These documents provide the basis for a classroom activity wherein students, working in collaboration with one another, craft their own immigration policy proposals. Recommended grade levels: 9-12. Click the image at left to download the PDF.
A Burning Issue Lesson Plan

A Burning Issue: A Structured Academic Controversy Concerning Flag Desecration

This lesson challenges students to craft a compromise resolution to an ongoing debate over the constitutionality of flag burning. Click the image at left to download the PDF.
Freedom of Speech and the Press in the Information Age

Freedom of Speech & Press in the Information Age:
Conference Report and Lesson Plans

This report, which came out of the 2008 conference of the same name, features four high school lesson plans on the following topics: free speech on the Internet, blogs and traditional press; the Fairness Doctrine; reporting during wartime; and free speech and campaign finance reform. Click the image at left to download the PDF.
Road to the White House Lesson Plan

The Road to the White House: A Simulation of the Presidential Election

Developed in 2008, this lesson serves to illuminate the nomination process while promoting media literacy, critical evaluation of candidates and informed participation in this and future elections. Recommended grade levels: 9-12. Click the image at left to download the PDF.

Related Lessons:
Poll Position: Collecting & Analyzing Polling Data
Covering the Campaign Trail: Analyzing Press Coverage of Presidential Candidates
 

Protocol for a Free & Responsible Student News Media

The Protocol for Free & Responsible Student News Media was developed to help student journalists and school administrators build relationships that will foster responsible and free student news media in schools. It is a consensus document that student journalists, their advisers and school administrators can turn to repeatedly during times of both harmony and discord. When a controversy surrounding a student newspaper gathers headlines in the professional press or ends up in the courtroom, all parties lose. On the other hand, when adversaries become allies and contentious issues are resolved through thoughtful discussion, all parties win. Click the image at the left to download the PDF.
 

Civic Blueprint for Illinois High Schools

The McCormick Foundation Civics Program, in partnership with the Illinois Civic Mission Coalition, is pleased to sponsor the Civic Blueprint for Illinois High Schools initiative, which is designed to give educators, policymakers, parents and all residents of Illinois the resources and inspiration to pursue Democracy School certification for their community high schools. The Civic Blueprint summarizes six promising approaches to high school level civic education. By integrating these approaches through classroom instruction, extracurricular opportunities and school governance, schools can earn the honor of accreditation as a certified Democracy School. Click the image at the left to download the PDF and visit the Educating for Democracy Web site to learn more about the accreditation process, and access resources.
Faces of Freedom Lesson Plan

Faces of Freedom in American History (8.0 reading level)

This lesson plan introduces students to Americans who exercised their First Amendment rights to preserve, defend and expand freedom. This 12-lesson curriculum will strengthen your students' understanding of their First Amendment rights and the people who have struggled to protect those freedoms. Created in partnership with the Bill of Rights Institute, the Civics Program also offers two comprehensive curricula. 
Download PDF (2.3 MB)
Conflict and Continuity Lesson Plan

Conflict and Continuity: The Story of American Freedom (10.5 reading level)

This lesson plan explores the ideas that established the foundations of freedom that continue to challenge American society today. This 12-lesson curriculum uses primary source documents and content-rich background essays to demonstrate how the United States has struggled to reconcile competing rights. Created in partnership with the Bill of Rights Institute, the Civics Program also offers two comprehensive curricula. 
Download PDF (2.6 MB)
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