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Online Tools Make Civics Accessible to Teachers, Parents, and Teens

In communities forced to quarantine because of the coronavirus (COVID-19), social studies teachers are venturing into the distance learning space and parents are seeking ways to keep homebound teenagers constructively occupied. A series of U.S. Courts online civics resources can help fill this void, by stimulating critical thinking and thoughtful discussions.

Adults and students alike can boost their civics IQ by watching videos on constitutional concepts supported by thought-provoking questions and activities. Two packages – on the rule of law and separation of powers – address gaps in court and constitutional literacy that have been documented by the Annenberg Public Policy Center in its annual civics knowledge survey. According to recent results, the majority of adults lacks a working knowledge of founding fundamentals that are pillars of democracy.

An exploration of the daily impact of the rule of law starts with viewing a four-minute video that explains how this abstract concept has direct impacts on everyday life. The video can be followed up with a variety of discussion-starter questions, writing prompts, and activities linked to in the program descriptions below. A broader range of civics materials for high school teachers and students are found in the educational resources section.

The following are resources for examining constitutional fundamentals whether at home or in the distance learning space.

Rule of Law

In this five-minute video Court Shorts: Rule of Law, federal judges explain how the rule of law protects individual rights and well-being in everyday situations like buying a breakfast sandwich, reading personal mail, and investing in the stock market. The rule of law also means that judges follow the Constitution even when they have to make unpopular decisions. The video is part of Court Shorts, a series on courts and core principles for teens and adults who want to understand current events through the lens of the Constitution. 

Separation of Powers

In this five-minute video Court Shorts: Separation of Powers, federal judges share their respect for and commitment to the separation of powers as a founding principle that has an impact on everyday life. The video is for teens and adults who want to understand how Congress, the Presidency, and the Judiciary are designed to relate to each other, particularly when dealing with contentious issues. As the video illustrates, all three branches play a role in preserving constitutional liberties. The video is supported by an activity package that allows students to experience the separation of powers in action. Court Shorts is a video series on law-related pillars of democracy.

Watch other civics education videos

Additional, interactive materials for high school levels are available in the educational resources section. The Civics Renewal Network, a coalition of nonpartisan, nonprofit civics education organizations, is offering resources for elementary through high school teachers that also can be used in distance learning.

Related Topics: Public Education