The Laws of the Land
Students will gain a greater understanding of the concept of “Federalism”. They will identify the difference between state and national laws and critically reflect on state and national powers.
- 50 State Quarters
- Students will gain a greater understanding of the concept of “Federalism.”
- They will identify the difference between state and national laws and critically reflect on state and national powers.
Major Subject Area Connections
- Social Studies
- Ninth grade
- Tenth grade
- Eleventh grade
- Twelfth grade
Session Length: 45-60 minutes
Total Length: 91-120 minutes
- Whole group
- Small groups
- Individual work
Terms and Concepts
- The United States Mint 50 State Quarters® Program
- State powers
- National powers
- 1 overhead projector (optional)
- 1 overhead transparency (or photocopy) of the “Quarter Design” sheet on page 59
- 1 copy of the “50 State Quarters® Program Overview” sheet on page 45 (optional)
- Double-sided (obverse and reverse) copies of the “Quarter Design” sheets on pages 59 and 60 (1 coin per student)
- Copies of the “Quarter Information” sheets on pages 46 to 57 (1 packet per student)
- Newsprint paper (1 large sheet per group)
- Classroom text (1 per student)
- 1 overhead transparency (or enlarged reproduction) of the Venn diagram
- 1 copy of the “Division of Powers” chart (optional)
- Writing paper
Worksheets and Files
Lesson plan, worksheet(s), and rubric (if any) at www.usmint.gov/kids/teachers/lessonPlans/pdf/368.pdf.
- Display an overhead transparency or photocopy of the “Quarter Designs” page. Ask the students if they have ever seen these coin designs, and what they know about the coins. Who produces these coins? What do they commemorate? If necessary, reference the “50 State Quarters® Program Overview” page to describe the 10-year coinage program.
- Distribute copies of a new quarter design to your students (each student should receive a different coin design).
- On the board, write the following questions: What state does your coin represent? What symbols are on this coin’s obverse (front)? What do you think these symbols mean? What symbols are on this coin’s reverse? What do you think these symbols mean?
- Allow students 5 minutes to answer these questions independently.
- Distribute a “Quarter Information” packet to each student, and ask the students to read more about their coin’s design.
- Assign each student a partner and conduct a 2- to 3-minute Pair-Share where each partner shares his or her coin, its symbols, and why each state might have chosen those specific symbols. Partners should also identify who is responsible for minting these coins, the state or national government.
- Regroup and discuss as a class the information shared between partners. Ask the students these questions: Who was responsible for minting these coins, the state or national government? (National government.) If the national government was responsible for minting each coin, did each state play any role in the minting of this coin? What was that role?
- Introduce the term “federalism” and ask students what they believe this term means. Remind students that just as with the coins, the term federalism refers to the idea that in our country there are some roles that are played by a national government and others that are played by states.
- Continue the discussion about federalism by prompting students with questions such as, “When did federalism come into being? Why was it established in our Constitution? What does the Constitution say about the division between the powers of the states and the powers of the national government?”
- Divide students into small groups of three or four and distribute a piece of newsprint paper and a set of markers to each group.
- Direct each group to spend 10 minutes creating a Venn diagram that compares and contrasts state and national powers. Students should be able to locate this information within their class textbook. (Reference the “Division of Powers” chart if necessary.)
- Display a blank Venn diagram for all students to see. Write the words “State Powers” and “National Powers” on the lines above the interlocking ovals.
- Ask each group to list either a state, national, or a shared power for placement on this chart. As each group lists their power, they must also give a brief explanation of this power. Students should reference state laws—such as those regarding marriage and driving—as well as national laws—such as those regarding treason, trade regulation, etc.
- For homework, have the students research three specific state laws in their assigned state.
- Ask each student to write a definition of federalism on a slip of paper and hand it to the instructor, prior to being dismissed from class. Review the activities from the previous class session, focusing on the concept of federalismand its relationship to our national government.
- Display the Venn diagram from the previous session for all students to see.
- Distribute a sheet of newsprint paper and a marker to each student. Direct the students to spend 10 minutes drawing a freehand replica of the coin’s reverse from the state that (s)he researched and listing the three state laws that they investigated for homework.
- Direct the students to post their work around the classroom.
- Allow 5 minutes of time for each student to explore their peers’ work and determine if there are any similarities among the state laws. Students should make note of any commonalities between the state laws displayed.
- Regroup and discuss as a class the similarities and differences among the state laws. Review once again the national laws that were discussed and the differences and similarities between the two. Some questions to ask may include, “Who passed the state laws? To whom do these laws apply? How are they different from the national laws? Who passed the national laws? To whom do the national laws apply? What is the reason for giving states the power to define certain laws?”
- Assign each student a partner and instruct the students to brainstorm the pros and cons of the national government defining the laws that currently reside with the state (such as marriage laws). Students should consider their state’s laws and those of other states. What differences do the students notice between states’ positions? What are the positive and negative aspects of these powers remaining with the state? How does a state’s position reflect federalism?
- Distribute writing paper to each student. Once students have brainstormed this list of pros and cons, each student should write a persuasive essay reflecting their opinion as to whether or not certain laws should remain under the power of the state or become a national law.
- If students are unable to finish this work in class, they will complete their essay as a homework assignment.
- Invite students to research the amendment process within the Constitution. They will also need to explain how this reflects federalism.
- Ask students to create an alternative to your state’s quarter design. What images would they place on this coin that would reflect their state’s history? What would they create for symbols of the national government?
- Have students research the meaning of “E Pluribus Unum.” How is this reflected in the creation of the newly minted quarters?
- Conduct a debate based on the positions students have expressed in their persuasive essays.
- Have students look up the governing structure of their own state. They may create a diagram showing the similarities and differences between their state’s governing structure and that of the national government.
- Have students research other countries that may have a similar structure of state vs.national government. (Mexico, Russia, or Ireland, for example). They may investigate whether or not the “states” of these countries have their own Constitution/laws that are separate from those of the national government. The student may present this to the class in a written or visual format.
- Invite the school’s superintendent or principal to come into the class to discuss the state vs. national laws that the school is required to follow.
Use the worksheets and class participation to assess whether the students have met the lesson objectives.
This lesson plan is not associated with any Common Core Standards.
Discipline: Social Studies
Domain: All Thematic Standards
Cluster: Civic Ideals and Practices
Grade(s): Grades K–12
- assist learners in understanding the origins and continuing influence of key ideals of the democratic republican form of government, such as individual human dignity, liberty, justice, equality, and the rule of law
- guide learner efforts to identify, analyze, interpret, and evaluate sources and examples of citizens’ rights and responsibilities
- facilitate learner efforts to locate, access, analyze, organize, synthesize, evaluate, and apply information about selected public issues—identifying, describing, and evaluating multiple points of view and taking reasoned positions on such issues
- provide opportunities for learners to practice forms of civic discussion and participation consistent with the ideals of citizens in a democratic republic
- help learners to analyze and evaluate the influence of various forms of citizen action on public policy
- prepare learners to analyze a variety of public policies and issues from the perspective of formal and informal political actors
- guide learners as they evaluate the effectiveness of public opinion in influencing and shaping public policy development and decision-making
- encourage learner efforts to evaluate the degree to which public policies and citizen behaviors reflect or foster the stated ideals of a democratic republican form of government
- support learner efforts to construct policy statements and action plans to achieve goals related to issues of public concern
- create opportunities for learner participation in activities to strengthen the “common good,” based upon careful evaluation of possible options for citizen action
Discipline: Social Studies
Domain: All Thematic Standards
Cluster: Power, Authority, and Governance
Grade(s): Grades K–12
- enable learners to examine the rights and responsibilities of the individual in relation to their families, their social groups, their community, and their nation; help students to understand the purpose of government and how its powers are acquired, used, and justified
- provide opportunities for learners to examine issues involving the rights, roles, and status of individuals in relation to the general welfare
- enable learners to describe the ways nations and organizations respond to forces of unity and diversity affecting order and security
- have learners explain conditions, actions, and motivations that contribute to conflict and cooperation within and among nations
- help learners to analyze and explain governmental mechanisms to meet the needs and wants of citizens, regulate territory, manage conflict, and establish order and security
- have learners identify and describe the basic features of the American political system, and identify representative leaders from various levels and branches of government
- challenge learners to apply concepts such as power, role, status, justice, democratic values, and influence to the examination of persistent issues and social problems guide learners to explain and evaluate how governments attempt to achieve their stated ideals at home and abroad