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American Government Project Ideas for High School

Instructor: Symantha O'Byrne
Projects are a main-stay in social studies classrooms of all disciplines because they offer a way to assess several disciplines and encourage students to explore the connections between the disciplines. High school projects offer an engaging way for students to 'show what they know' while reinforcing the critical connections between social studies disciplines.

High School US Government Students

While projects are a natural fit for social studies content, high school students come in a whole host of shapes and sizes, so flexibility is critical. As the facilitator in your classroom, you are the authority on what your students are expected to know and how best they can demonstrate that they know it. US Government can be a dry topic, but a deep understanding of how our government works and WHY it works that way is critical for people to perform their duties and fulfill their responsibilities as citizens. Using projects to engage teenagers can make dry content come alive for them and become meaningful and relevant. These projects ideas are flexible and adaptable to your circumstances ( availability of technology, time constraints, specific elements of performance standards and so on), so mold them to make the most of this opportunity to engage your students.

Recipe for Success (How to Break the Bands)

Goal

Students will analyze the impact of political philosophers on the Declaration of Independence

Objective

Students will create a 'recipe' for a dish called 'Declaration of Independence' which includes the political ideas of European political philosophers as its ingredients. They will also create a review of the dish which explains how the philosophers' ideas impacted the Declaration of Independence.

Materials

This project can be digital or pen and paper; the materials needed depend on the format of the product.

  • Access to copies of the Declaration of Independence
  • Access to the writings of political philosophers of the 17th and 18th centuries, for example:
  • Hobbes (Leviathan)
  • Locke (Second Treatise on Government)
  • Rousseau (The Social Contract)
  • Montesquieu (The Spirit of the Laws)
  • Copies of articles written by food reviewers
  • Large Index cards (optional)

Process

Depending on the scope of this project, students can work together or independently to explore the central ideas of each of the texts. Also, the philosophers and works listed reflect the specifics of the Georgia Performance Standards. The list can be changed to accommodate specifics in your state.

Students can work in groups to explore one work and then share their results with the rest of the class, or students can work independently to understand all of the works.

They will then analyze the Declaration of Independence and identify places where the ideas of the philosophers can be seen, either directly or through their impact on the writer

Now for the fun part…building the recipe and writing the review. This part can be paper and pencil or digital and can be formatted on index cards (4x6 cards or notebook paper cut in quarters) or as PowerPoint or Google Slides. The idea is to list the political philosophers as ingredients, with a parenthetical reference to the central idea.

For example, if Popeye and Superman were two of your 'ingredients' (and they should NOT be), you might list them like this

  • ½ c of Popeye (might is right)
  • 1 T of Superman (truth, justice and the American way)


Students can add food items to their recipe

Stress that the identification of the central or critical idea and associating it with the correct philosopher is one of the important parts of this project

Review of the 'dish' (Declaration of Independence)

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