School Improvement in Maryland

Lesson Seeds: The lesson seeds are ideas for the indicator/objective that can be used to build a lesson. Lesson seeds are not meant to be all-inclusive, nor are they substitutes for instruction.

Standard 1.0 Political Science

Topic B. Individual and Group Participation in the Political System

Indicator 1. Analyze the influence of individuals and groups on shaping public policy

Objective b. Evaluate ways the citizens should use, monitor and influence the formation and implementation of public policy

Prior to examining the term in historical context, be sure students understand the term public policy. If necessary, distribute recent newspapers and see if the students can identify examples of public policy from various sections of the paper and categorize their examples according to level of government involved and purpose.

It is important to note that this concept can be studied in a wide variety of contexts from the early history of the United States. For example, students might evaluate the roles citizens played in the debate over ratification of the Constitution and the addition of the Bill of Rights, or in the implementation of various Reconstruction plans after the Civil War. In this lesson seed, it will be emphasized during students’ study of mid-19th century reform movements.

When studying mid-19th century reform movements, divide the class into groups of 3-4 students each. Assign each group a different reform movement. Examples might include temperance, women’s rights, public education reform, the abolition of slavery, or improving treatment of citizens with special needs. Provide each group with primary and/or secondary accounts of the assigned reform movements. Direct the students to analyze the sources for the purpose of identifying (1) the specific methods the reform movement used to influence public policies; and (2) examples of local, state, or national public policies that were enacted as a result of the reform movement’s efforts. Have each group report its findings to the full class, and create a master list of techniques citizens used to influence public policy in the 19th Century. Conduct a discussion in which the students compare historical methods of enacting change with present methods. Consider having the students, based on their knowledge of 19th century reform movements, design action plans for “21st century” reforms.

Resources for Objective 1.B.1.b:
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