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 C. Protecting Rights and Maintaining Order

Indicator 1. Examine the impact of governmental decisions on individual rights and responsibilities in the United States

Objective d. Describe the expansion of the powers of the national government in the decision of the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case McCulloch v. Maryland

Prior to having the students read about the Supreme Court’s ruling in the McCulloch case, have small groups team up to follow the “case study” steps found on Street Law’s Web site (

In doing so, the students will brief the facts and issues of the McCulloch case, discuss both sides of the argument, and then reach their own decisions. As needed, be sure to focus students’ attention on the possible long term consequences various precedents might “have” on federal power in the United States. How should the Court strike a balance between ensuring the federal government has sufficient power and maintaining the sovereignty of the individual states?

After groups of students share and possibly debate their own decisions, share either a secondary summary or excerpts from Marshall’s actual majority opinion. Have the students summarize this decision on legal briefing forms, and then compare their own decisions with Marshall’s in journals.

Resources for Objective 1.C.1.d:
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