Educational Resources | Lesson Plans

Educational Resources

Interested viewers, educators and students will appreciate the available information about the Constitution online. In addition to WHYY's content partner, the National Constitution Center, several other organizations, including the National Archives, the Smithsonian Institution, and NPR's Justice Talking, to mention a few, will prove helpful.

Contemporary Constitutional Issues

Many Constitutional issues continue to capture the public's attention and interest. How will the government balance human rights with the passage of the Patriot Act? Will support for a Constitutional Amendment to ban gay marriage lead to its passage? These and many other issues are constant reminders that everyday life in the 21st Century intersects with varying interpretations of the Constitution. Viewers, educators and students alike will find these and other issues illuminated by the following resources:

Capital Punishment

Justice Learning
(A collaboration of NPR's Justice Talking and the New York Times Learning Network)

"Is the death penalty an effective deterrent to crime or a violation of the United States Constitution's ban on cruel and unusual punishment?"

The Death Penalty Information Center

"A non-profit organization serving the media and the public with analysis and information on issues concerning capital punishment."

The Patriot Act

American Civil Liberties Union

"Just six weeks after the September 11 attacks, a panicked Congress passed the USA Patriot Act, an overnight revision of the nation's surveillance laws..."

NPR Justice Talking: Domestic Spying

"In May, 2002, President Bush lifted the ban on domestic spying by the FBI. The administration argued such measures enhance law enforcement's efforts to track terrorists and ensure homeland security. Civil libertarians decried the move as an unprecedented power grab that undermines fundamental democratic principles in a free society."

Camp Delta/X-Ray at Guantanamo Bay

BBC News Online
"The United States Supreme Court has ruled that prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay can take their case that they are unlawfully imprisoned to the American courts."

PBS News Hour

In April 2004, the Supreme Court began review of three important terrorism-related cases that will determine whether foreign prisoners have the right to a trial in U.S. courts and whether the government has the right to detain U.S. citizens accused of working with terrorists without a trial.

Gay Rights/Marriage

Public Agenda
(Non-partisan opinion research organizations helping Americans understand critical issues)

"For much of American history, indeed, for much of world history, homosexuality has been a taboo subject. Often, it has been considered a crime in itself. Yet today, millions of gay and lesbian Americans are not only open about their sexuality, they are campaigning for new laws which they say would grant them the same rights accorded to heterosexuals, including the right to marry and protection against discrimination."

NPR Justice Talking: Gay Marriage

"Advocates for gay rights say cultural norms are changing and that acceptance of same-sex unions is closer than you think. Others caution against both optimism and acceptance saying that most Americans still support what they see as traditional families."

Religion in Public Schools

Americans United for Separation of Church and State

"Parents are the proper agents to determine what religion, if any, their children are exposed to. Public schools have no right to usurp parental authority by imposing religion on schoolchildren. Mandatory prayer, Bible reading or other religious activities sponsored by public schools are fundamental violations of the right of conscience. Public school students have the right to pray on their own in a non-disruptive fashion, and schools may teach about religion as a part of objective instruction, but public schools must not sponsor religious worship. That job belongs to America's houses of worship."

Justice Learning
(A collaboration of NPR's Justice Talking and the New York Times Learning Network)

"From opening prayers at football games to lessons about creationism taught in the classroom, the presence of religion in public schools tests the limits of free expression and tolerance. Some feel that denying religious groups access to school facilities is unfair discrimination. Others believe that religion belongs only in private homes and places of worship. What role, if any, should religion play in the public education system?"

Lesson Plans

Students and educators who view the programs can benefit from the can explore lesson plans on topics ranging from Watergate to the Supreme Court to our civil liberties in an era of increased security. Choose a topic and you can supplement an existing instructional plan, or create a new one by tapping into these additional resources.

The National Constitution Center welcomes educators and students.

"Whether preparing for a class visit to the Center or looking for instructional materials to use in the classroom, the National Constitution Center provides resources and services for educators."

The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), an independent Federal agency, offers a wide variety of lesson plans from "Revolution and the New Nation" to "Contemporary United States." Dozens of online lesson plans enable educators to "teach with documents" by offering reproducible copies of primary documents from the holdings of the National Archives of the United States. Teaching activities are correlated to the National History Standards and National Standards for Civics and Government and promote cross-curricular connections.

Jimmy Carter, a film produced and broadcast in 2002 by the WGBH Educational Foundation, "traces the ascent of an ambitious country boy from a peanut farm in Plains, Georgia, to the Oval Office; it examines the failings of Carter's political leadership in the context of the turbulent 1970s; and explores the role religion played in his career."

The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer offers teacher resources online. Each "NewsHour Extra story" comes with a short lesson plan that includes initiating questions, a reading comprehension printout and extension activities.

The New York Times Learning Network offers hundreds of free lesson plans for grades 6-12.

Justice Learning is collaboration between NPR's weekly program Justice Talking and the New York Times Learning Network.

  • "From the Executive, in Their Own Words"
    Quotations from former presidents on issues including: Voting Rights; Women's Rights; Race and Education; Death Penalty; Gun Control; Affirmative Action; Religion in Schools; and Juvenile Justice.

The Human Rights Resource Center, "an integral part of the University of Minnesota Human Rights Center, works in partnership with the University of Minnesota Human Rights Library to create and distribute Human Rights Education resources via electronic and print media and train activists, professionals, and students as human rights educators, and build advocacy networks to encourage effective practices in human rights education."