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Learning About the Rights & Obligations of Citizenship

found in: social studies; preK-2; 3-5; 6-8; 9-12

In Civics classes, students learn about the rights and obligations of citizenship at the local, state, national, and global levels and the history of our nation as a democracy.

Students learn about the United States Constitution, which organizes our national government into three independent branches of government:


Forgotten Purpose: Civics Education in Public Schools  reports that only 25 percent of U.S. students reach a proficient standard in civics assessments and that white students from wealthy households are four to six times more likely to exceed that level than Black and Hispanic students from low-income households. Author Amanda Litvinov outlines seven approaches to improve student civics understanding and civic involvement.


In another article, 3 Teachers Tell How They Took On the Civics Gap,  Litvinov describes how three teachers in Florida, Washington, and California approached teaching civics in economically disadvantaged school districts.


Students learn about the United States Constitution, which organizes our national government into three independent branches of government:

  • Executive Branch - Led by the President of the United States.
  • Legislative Branch - Congress, which is divided into the Senate and the House of Representatives.
  • Judicial Branch - The federal court system, which is made up of the United States Supreme Court and a network of courts below it.

Students can conduct civic research by visiting the virtual national repositories listed below to view documents that record the history of democracy in the United States:

The National Archives

Housing over 9 billion records, including signed executive orders, genealogical records, patents, historical photographs.

The Library of Congress

Housing books; historic maps, photos, and documents; and current and historical legislative information.

National Museum of American History

Displaying the social, political, cultural, scientific, and military heritage of the United States.

Additional Resources:

KidCitizen: Developed for K-5 students, KidCitizen is a growing collection of interactive episodes that use contemporary photographs to explore how public roles have changed over time. The episodes, which include print and audio instructions, can be viewed on Macs, PCs, Chromebooks, iOS and Android tablets.

Kids in the House has sections for young learners, grade school, middle school. and high school with information under: What is Congress, How Laws Are Made, Art & history, and Around Capital Hill For Teachers supplies activities and lesson plans.

The Democracy Project offers Civic Education Lesson/Unit Plans  for grades K-12 aligned with Delaware civics standards. Lessons are grouped K-3, 4-5, 6-8, and 9-12 and can be downloaded as Word documents or PDFs.

Teaching Civics  provides links to civics, government and law-related resources to support civics and social studies lessons for K-12 students. Resources can be searched and filtered by grade (including ELL), topic, strategy, and Minnesota Social Studies Standard.

We believe public education is the cornerstone of our republic. Public education provides individuals with the skills to be involved, informed, and engaged in our representative democracy. —NEA vision, mission, and values statement


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