Unpacking the Constitution: 7th Graders Bring the Judicial Branch To Life

By Evan Diamond on March 4, 2022

Winter in 7th Grade US History is all about the Constitution, and throughout these dark and chilly days we’ve been slowly unpacking the many elements of this highly complex yet incredibly important aspect of our nation.  For 7th graders, the Constitution can be overwhelming and really confusing which forces us to explore it in a methodical and creative manner.  Reading and analyzing the Constitution can be pretty boring, but applying it to real situations and watching it in action breathes life and accessibility to these important studies.  For example, earlier this winter we engaged in a simulation where students wrote bills, entered in committee discussions to refine and improve them, voted on them in the same manner Congress votes on bills and presented them to The President (Mr. D) for approval or veto.  Following each bill through this process helped students to better understand not only this process but also the many challenges faced by each bill on the floor of Congress.

When we approached the Judicial Branch, we took a similar approach by looking at landmark Supreme Court cases that have directly impacted civil rights at school for students.  By looking at cases that apply to schools, students were able to better relate to the content while also learning more about how the Supreme Court operates. The project that supported this work asked students to choose from a shortlist of cases and then present them to the rest of the class as if they were being reported on television news, as a radio broadcast, or a newspaper article.  Students researched their case and then crafted creative media presentations that were both incredibly impressive and highly informative.  There were several excellent submissions for this project, but the example below really effectively embraced the creative spirit of the project while also beautifully reporting on the landmark case of Brown vs. Board of Education.  All of the 7th graders did exactly what makes studies of this kind truly worthwhile…they brought the Supreme Court, its influence on student rights at schools, and its decision-making process, to life through a real-world application of learning.