With support from the Axe-Houghton Foundation, the Justice Resource Center (JRC) is now administering The Constitution Works (TCW) program, a law-related/civics program fostering skills and dispositions for 21st century learners. JRC provides teacher professional development sessions, age-appropriate case materials aligned with Common Core and an opportunity for students to role-play their case in a federal court. This program can be implemented in grades 5-12.
TCW materials were developed around each of the three branches of government. Through engaging fact patterns, students are introduced to relevant constitutional issues and they take on a role in determining the outcome. In the culminating “role play” activity at the majestic Federal Bankruptcy Courthouse, Eastern District, students have the opportunity to assume the role of attorney or Supreme Court Justice in a 1st Amendment case, a Senator applying the 14th Amendment to debate a Bill, or a presidential advisor developing a proposal with constitutional implications.
TCW’s curricular materials include a comprehensive teacher guide with lesson plans and student workbooks. A class set consists of 35 student books and one teacher’s manual with a facilitated role-play at the U.S. Federal Bankruptcy Court in Brooklyn, NY. Professional development at JRC is available for educators who are new to the program.
The Constitution Works: Case Offerings
Judicial Branch — Denver Dispatch v. United States (Freedom of the Press): A local newspaper has printed the first article of a five part series about a secret biological weapons research plant. The government wants to stop further publication of the articles because it feels that the articles could jeopardize the safety of the nation. Is this a First Amendment violation?
Judicial Branch — Speak Out! v. United States (Freedom of Assembly): Friends are enjoying a picnic in the park when a group of people set up to protest a toxic waste incinerator located nearby. A fight breaks out between the protesters and some picnickers, and the police demand that the protesters leave immediately. Activists who refuse to leave are arrested and taken to jail. Did the police violate the group’s right to free speech?
Judicial Branch — Kevin Jacobs v. Springfield Public School (Freedom of Speech): Kevin Jacobs, a public school student, refused to comply with his teacher’s demand that he erase his online class journal which discussed homosexuality. When Kevin refused, he was suspended. Was Kevin’s First Amendment right to free speech violated?
Judicial Branch — Jen Lockley v. Franklin Public Middle School (Freedom of Religion): As part of a school initiative, Franklin Public Middle School students organized a new after-school Divine Science club, a group that focuses on the theory of intelligent design as an alternative to evolutionary theory. A handful of fellow students and parents, including Jen Lockley, feel that it is wrong for the school to have a religious club. Is this a violation of the First Amendment Establishment Clause?
Legislative Branch — The Excellence and Equal Opportunity Act (The Fourteenth Amendment and Equal Protection of the Laws): Students become senators who apply the Fourteenth Amendment to debate Bill S. 1789; a federal grant of $250 million to support schools which segregate athletic teams on the basis of gender. Will this Bill violate the 14th Amendment?
Executive Branch — By Americans for Americans (Article 2; The Thirteenth Amendment; Public Policy): As presidential advisors, students develop a proposal for mandatory national youth service. Can the government make young people serve?
Click on the interpretations of the U.S. Constitution by 5th grade students from PS 158:
If you would like to sign up for the program or have any questions, please contact Mike Seif: firstname.lastname@example.org