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ERIC Number: EJ1045173
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2014
Pages: 6
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: N/A
ISSN: ISSN-1056-0300
Grassroots Activists and the Three Branches of Government: "Key Players in the Civil Rights Movement"
Brown, Elizabeth; Silvestri, Linda
Social Studies and the Young Learner, v27 n1 p13-18 Sep-Oct 2014
In order to understand the complex workings of the three branches of American government, young citizens need early exposure in the elementary years to hands-on lessons that include real life examples and opportunities for students to apply what they have learned. To that end, the authors designed a five-day, inquiry-based unit for fourth grade students, with examples of each branch of government in action during the civil rights movement. The lessons were guided by two compelling questions: How did grassroots activists influence members of the three branches of government to end segregation? How did members of the three branches of government react to activists' actions? One of the goals of our unit was for students to understand that reforms are made through the hard work of many people--from grassroots activists to the members of each branch of government. In order to emphasize the diversity of individuals involved in the Civil Rights Movement, each student was assigned to study an influential, sometimes lesser known, person from the civil rights movement. After researching this individual, students presented their findings to the class and created either a leaf (representing a member of a branch of government) or a blade of grass (representing a grassroots activist). The tree and surrounding scene that students created illustrated the powerful effect that activists had on moving each branch of government to end segregation through executive orders, judicial decisions, and the creation of new laws. Over the course of the unit, students began to realize how the movement depended upon the collective actions of the many people, not merely upon the actions of one branch of government, or of one individual. According to the C3 Framework, "rich social studies teaching … offers students opportunities to investigate [questions] more thoroughly through disciplinary [civics, economic, geographical, or historical] or multidisciplinary means." This unit integrated civics, history, and language arts. The integration provided students with the opportunity to make deep connections between the disciplines.
National Council for the Social Studies. 8555 Sixteenth Street #500, Silver Spring, MD 20910. Tel: 800-683-0812; Tel: 301-588-1800; Fax: 301-588-2049; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Grade 4; Intermediate Grades; Elementary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A