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Activating My Democracy (grades 6-8)

Activating My Democracy (grades 6-8)

Essential questions: 
Do you believe that you have the power to change the world?
What is a game-changing action plan?
What are civic values?
How do civic values relate to constitutional rights?
What are two persistent “internal threats” to our democracy?
How did the concept of “person” change after passage of the 14th Amendment?
How did sovereign people become marginalized by our own government?
What has been the Court’s role in promoting corporate welfare over the common good?
What are the social consequences of a high threshold to amend the Constitution?
Should the Supreme Court be made more democratic?
How are new fundamental rights recognized?
What are duties of government and rights of citizens under the Public Trust Doctrine?

Activating My Democracy, developed by Ultimate Civics, builds grassroots awareness about the democracy crisis at the intersection of race, gender, health, poverty, the environment, sustainability, equality, and corporate power.

This module includes the following lessons:

  • What Can We Do? How to move ideas into action (6-8)
    Lesson 1 introduces a basic tool of civic engagement: how to organize a game-changing action plan. Students analyze and discuss film stories to identify basic elements of SMART action plans created and implemented by their peers. Peer learning and interactive activities nurture self-efficacy and support the role of young citizens in creating a more sustainable and democratic society. (50 minutes)

  • This is right on so many levels! Understanding values, wealth, and rights (6-8)
    Lesson 2 introduces a basic tool of civic engagement – the concept that our rights, and the government created to secure our rights, is derived from what we value and love. Students explore and articulate what they value, then organize their values into types of shared wealth. Students identify shared wealth as civic values enshrined in founding documents and codified into law under the Bill of Rights. Using current events, students learn how, and how well, our rights work to defend our wealth and wellbeing against government abuses of power. This lesson is critical to sustaining effective action on any issue. (100 minutes)

  • Rights and Privileges: Understanding the balance of power (6-8)
    Students critically examine the conceptual framework of the Constitution and Bill of Rights to understand how internal threats institutionalized in these documents triggered a power dynamic that has shaped our society from inception to present. Students are introduced to a third entity that existed at the time of founding – corporations – and then explore the young government’s dilemma of where to fit this entity into the legal framework. Students critically examine “judicial review,” two other early landmark laws, and the Civil War Amendments and the effects of these on the balance of rights, powers, and privilege during the first 100 years of the democracy journey. (100 minutes)

  • Who Rules? Understanding the Journey (6-8)
    The internal threats institutionalized in the Constitution triggered a power dynamic, a class struggle for power and control, that continues to shape our society. This lesson examines three large-scale shifts in the balance of power after the Civil War. It explores why these shifts occur, who is driving the dynamic, and the growing social and political consequences of this power imbalance at the core of our democracy. Students reflect on the democracy journey and create their own narrative of who rules. (100 minutes)

  • Real people to the rescue! How to amend the U.S. Constitution (6-8)
    Lesson 5 introduces a game-changing action in real time: How to amend the U.S. Constitution to defend against internal threats to democracy. Using films, students reflect on the reason to amend the Constitution, examine the constitutional amendment process, and consider the Supreme Court’s role in shaping historical progress. Eighth-grade students evaluate three proposed amendments, and all grades use interactive activities to explore how an “ideal” amendment could restore rule to the people and law and order to corporations and society. (100 minutes)

  • Our Future is a Constitutional Right! How to use our rights to defend what we love (6-8)
    Lesson 6 explores a game-changing action in real time: How to use our constitutional rights to limit the power of a centralized government, drawing on real examples from the youth-driven, game-changing climate cases in federal and state courts. Students explore: (1) constitutional rights cases, trial proceedings, and legal concepts like standing; (2) climate justice as constitutional rights cases, how the court recognizes new fundamental rights, and the Public Trust Doctrine; (3) remedies in constitutional rights cases and how youth might engage in local climate recovery actions to support their peers; and (4) how these constitutional rights cases proceed through the U.S. judicial system. Students gain an understanding of how values, law, science, and politics interface when addressing complex public problems with multiple perspectives. (200 minutes)