Who Has the Power?


Students will gain an understanding of the concept of federalism.

Coin Type(s)

  • Quarter

Coin Program(s)

  • 50 State Quarters


Students will gain an understanding of the concept of federalism.

Major Subject Area Connections

  • Social Studies


  • 7th
  • 8th

Class Time

  • Sessions: One
  • Session Length: 45-60 minutes
  • Total Length: 46-90 minutes

Terms and Concepts

  • The United States Mint 50 State Quarters Program
  • Federalist
  • Antifederalist
  • Federalism
  • State and national powers
  • United States Mint
  • Symbols
  • Obverse
  • Reverse


  • Copies of the Venn diagram (1 per pair)
  • 1 overhead projector (optional)
  • 1 overhead transparency (or photocopy) of the "Quarter Comparisons" Venn diagram
  • 1 copy of the "50 State Quarters Program Overview" on page 57
  • Quarters with the eagle reverse design (1 per student)
  • Copies of the "Quarter Designs" sheet on page 71 (1 per student)
  • 1 copy of the "Division of Powers" chart


Worksheets and files (PDF)

Lesson Steps

  1. Write the terms "federalist" and "anti-federalist" on the chalk board.
  2. Assign each student a partner and conduct a Think-Pair-Share activity in which students define and use these terms to explain "federalism."
  3. Record all student responses and explain that the class will be completing activities which better explain the term "federalism."
  4. Display a new quarter reverse design (use the example of your own state if available).  Referring to this quarter, ask the students what they know about this coin and others like it. Why do the students think that the United States created the 50 State Quarters Program?
  5. Describe the 50 State Quarters Program, referring to the "Quarter Designs" sheet if necessary.
  6. Distribute a quarter with the eagle reverse design and a copy of the "Quarter Designs" sheet to each student. Ask the students to examine both types of quarters (new and eagle).
  7. Direct students to return to their earlier pairs. Distribute a copy of the Venn diagram to each pair and direct the pairs to write the words "Eagle Quarters" and "New Quarters" on the lines above the interlocking ovals.
  8. Direct the student pairs to determine the differences and similarities between the new quarter reverse designs and the "eagle quarters." Students should investigate the symbols on these coins and think about the significance that different symbols may have to the state and to the nation.
  9. Display a copy of the Venn diagram for all the students to see. Then write the words "Eagle Quarters" and "New Quarters" on the lines above the interlocking ovals. Regroup and, as a class, discuss the similarities and differences that each group noted. Record students responses on the class chart.
  10. Discuss the meanings of the symbols on the "eagle" quarter. The students should understand that these symbols are national symbols not directly related to a particular state.  Ask students how the symbols on the "eagle" quarter differ from those on the new quarters.
  11. Conduct a discussion about federalism by asking questions such as: While each state has its own quarter design, does each state mint its own quarter? Do the states have the power to make their own money? Who does have the power to make money? What are some powers that the states have? What are some powers that the states don't have?
  12. Draw three columns on the chalk board, titled "State Powers," "Federal Government Powers," and "Shared Powers." As students respond, place their ideas into the appropriate columns. Refer to the "Division of Power" chart if necessary.
  13. Explain that students can see from this chart that the powers are divided between the federal government and the states. This creates a system of government we call federalism.
  14. As an evaluation of the day's objective, have the students take a few minutes at the end of class to write a response to the question "What does Federalism mean?"


Invite the school principal to speak with your class about the ways in which schools must follow state and federal laws.


Use the worksheets and class participation to assess whether the students have met the lesson objectives.

Common Core Standards

This lesson plan is not associated with any Common Core Standards.

National Standards

Discipline: Social Studies
Domain: All Thematic Standards
Cluster: Power, Authority, and Governance
Grade(s): Grades K–12

Teachers should:

  • 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