Have students try these activities to expand their knowledge and interest in American Government.
The United Kingdom is a parliamentary democracy with a constitutional monarch. North Korea is a communist state under totalitarian dictatorship. How do these governmental systems compare to that of the United States? How are they different? Invite students to do their own research, using the Internet and other available resources, in order to learn about other systems of government (the United Kingdom’s and North Korea’s are just two possibilities). Have them compare and contrast these systems of government with ours in oral or written reports.
What does it mean for a country to be more or less democratic? Some possible criteria are as follows: Are citizens’ civil liberties respected? Do citizens enjoy political freedom? Are elections free and fair? Do government services function well? Is there a judiciary whose decisions are enforced? Is the media free and independent? Discuss all or some of these criteria with students. Discuss the relation between these factors and the question of how democratic a country is. Then have each student choose a country from a list and evaluate how democratic that country is. For guidance, see the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index.
Have students make up their own political parties and then create campaign posters for them. Ask students to consider the factors that go into determining whether a political campaign is successful, and encourage them to take these factors into account in designing their posters. Have interested students display their posters and debate their political platforms with one another.
What is the relationship between government and the environment? The EPA is a government agency whose job it is to observe and regulate the impact had by private businesses on the environment. Certain manufacturing processes might be more harmful to nearby forests and lakes, for example, whereas other processes might be less harmful. Raise the following questions for discussion or writing: Why does the government have an interest in protecting the environment? Should private citizens or companies also want to protect the environment? What does protecting the environment have to do with our health? Whose job do you think it should be to protect the environment? What does this question have to do with the material covered in this Unit?
What is the relationship between government and health? The FDA is a government agency responsible for deciding whether food products and medicines made by private companies are safe for people to consume. Government also decides what kinds of food children are given in public schools. Ask students to pretend that they work for the government, and tell them that their job is to design a menu for school lunches. Remind them that the government’s role is to keep people safe and healthy without spending too many tax dollars. Encourage them to do research, using the Internet or other available resources, to find out what the healthiest and most affordable foods are and which food products produced by private companies are the safest and healthiest.
Play a game where students vote for things. For instance, have them vote on whether a PB&J or a ham and cheese is the best sandwich or on which of two or three popular songs is the best. Have students tally the vote results and then graphically represent the preferences of the class. Encourage them to use circle graphs, bar graphs, and other useful methods for representing quantitative information.