A Sample Potential Offering...

"Design a Constitution" Project

This project is an opportunity for students of American history and civics to experience first-hand some of the issues and decisions faced by the framers of the U.S. Constitution. Participants will learn about different political and economic systems, analyze constitutions from several countries, and work together to create their own constitution based on what they've learned and their own values. Group decision-making by consensus will be a major element of this project, which has several phases:

1. Background on the Country
­ We'll look at what the U.S. was like at the time of the writing of the Constitution including geography, population, etc. What were the underlying assumptions, values, ideas, and issues that influenced the framers?
- The group will invent its own country and decide on some of the basic background information. We will discuss the beliefs they hold in common, as well as those that are different, and decide on the values that will form the foundation of their government and its constitution.

2. Political and Economic Systems
­ We'll look at a number of different political and economic systems that are used throughout the world. Particular attention will be paid to how capitalism and representative democracy play out in the U.S.
­ The group will discuss the pros and cons of various systems and will work together to choose political and economic systems for the invented country.

3. Analysis of Constitutions -- We will examine the constitutions from several different countries with different types of governments and socioeconomic conditions (including the U.S.).
­ What can be learned about each country from its constitution?
- How are decisions and laws made?
- What is the balance of power and responsibility? Are there provisions to keep any one person/group from getting too powerful?
- What human/civil rights are protected and how?
­ How is each constitution structured and written? What are the components?

4. Designing the Government
­ The group will discuss the pros and cons of different ways of organizing a government. We'll look at branches of government, the idea of balance of power, local vs. national political power, etc. The rights, powers, and responsibilities of the individual will also be discussed.
­ The group will then work together to decide how the invented country will be governed and how rights will be protected for the people. The values and beliefs agreed upon earlier in the class will serve as guiding principles.

5. Writing the Constitution
­ The group will work together to write a constitution for the invented country based on the decisions that have been made. Students will work individually and in pairs to describe each element in writing, using the constitutions we have looked at as a general guide to structure and form.

Estimated time frame: six 2-hr classes or eight 1 1/2-hr classes

 Check back soon for updates on dates, times, etc.


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