Magna Carta Project Ideas

Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

The Magna Carta represented a definitive change in European history. These projects can help your students examine the history and significance of this document within various contexts.

The Magna Carta

The Magna Carta is one of the most influential documents in English history. Created in 1215, this document laid out the foundational principles of rights for people in England. It was the beginning of a long history that would eventually lead to the development of a Parliament that placed restrictions on the absolute power of the monarch and established that no person was greater than the law. These projects are designed to be adaptable for most grade levels and can help your students gain a greater understanding of this document and its significance in history.

Magna Carta Project Ideas

Draft a Charter

Start by teaching students the basic history behind the Magna Carta, and then provide them with resources to study the topic in great depth. Students will break into small groups, and attempt to understand the perspective of the rebel barons of England in 1215. Once they have been given a chance to research this topic, students will assume the roles of the rebel barons. Ask students to imagine that they are in conflict with King John and that they have been asked to draft a charter of the rights they want to have. Remind students to think about this as if they were 13th-century barons, not 21st-century students. Based on the research they conduct, what do the barons want? What are their demands? Students will draft their charter of rights, and present it to the class. The class will then vote on the elements from each charter they like and create a class charter to present to King John. At this point, go through the actual Magna Carta, and see if the demands the students came up with are similar to those of the barons.

Materials needed: computers, chart or poster paper, markers, copies of the Magna Carta

Document Family Tree

The Magna Carta is often seen as the ancestor of modern-day constitutions and other significant legal documents outlining the rights of citizens. For this project, students are going to research the Magna Carta and its significance to world history. They will identify at least five other documents that were in some way influenced by the Magna Carta between the 13th and 21st centuries. Using this research, students will create a family tree of political documents, in which the Magna Carta is the tree trunk (the founding member of the family) and the other documents are branches. Those that are most directly related to the Magna Carta should be on the lower branches, while those that are a little more removed should be on the top branches. Have students create the family tree (you can instruct them to be as straightforward or artistic as you want) and have them write a brief paper explaining the documents on this tree.

Materials needed: poster paper, markers, colored pencils, pencils

Fiction-Writing Projects

After teaching students the basic history of the Magna Carta, provide them with resources to research the topic in greater depth. Once they are comfortable with the material, students will write a short work of creative fiction revolving around the Magna Carta. Here are some possible ways to do this:

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