Building Informed Citizens Today for a Better Tomorrow

A Resource Toolkit for Teaching American Democracy & Government

Inspired by Former Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye, first woman Chief Judge of New York, and her dedication to preserving, protecting, and promoting New York legal history and its courts, the Historical Society of the New York Courts developed its educational initiatives with one main goal: to empower students through greater understanding of our founding documents and the role of the courts and rule of law in American democracy and government. Through this process, its goal is to build better informed citizens to vote and advocate to safeguard their civil rights and civil liberties and fight for equality, social justice, and societal change. Funded by a grant from The New York Community Trust, the Society answered the call to provide support to educators to prepare more lessons and curriculum on civics, as well as on the courts.

This toolkit provides a variety of resources for New York educators teaching social studies, US history and government, which address their curricular requirements, as well as include useful information on the federal and state law and courts. Designed for teachers with a focus on flexibility, accessibility, and clarity, this toolkit presents original and existing educator-approved materials in an organized and interactive format, which gives teachers the ability to pick and choose among the various subjects, lessons, activities, and videos to use in their classrooms to support their students’ needs as they see fit. The toolkit will be continuously updated to incorporate current events and legal changes and to place them in historical context, in order to assist teachers in showcasing to students how the past helps inform the present and how the present is relevant to what they are learning inside the classroom.

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Building Informed Citizens Today for a Better Tomorrow: A Resource Toolkit for Teaching American Democracy & Government was funded by a grant from The New York Community Trust.

American Revolution: Fighting for a New Nation

I. American Revolution: Fighting for a New Nation

  • Declaration of Independence

  • NYS Constitution of 1777

Birth of American Democracy

II. Birth of American Democracy

  • US Constitution and Bill of Rights

  • NYS Constitutions of 1821 and Beyond

Three Branches of Government

III. Three Branches of Government 

  • Legislative (Congress)

  • Executive (President)

  • Judicial (Supreme Court)

Civil Rights and Reconstruction

IV. Civil Rights and Reconstruction

  • 13th Amendment

  • 14th Amendment

  • 15th Amendment


V. Federalism 

  • Slavery

  • Civil Rights Movement (including Women’s and LGBTQ Rights)

  • Immigration

  • Reproductive Rights


VI. Voting

  • Women’s Suffrage

  • Voting Rights Act of 1965

  • Contested Elections

First Amendment/Civil Liberties

VII. First Amendment/Civil Liberties

  • Free Speech

  • Free Press

  • Free Assembly/Association & Petition for Redress of Grievances

  • Free Exercise of Religion and Establishment Clause

Criminal Law/Civil Liberties

VIII. Criminal Law/Civil Liberties

  • 4th Amendment — Search and Seizure

  • 5th Amendment — Self-Incrimination and Due Process

  • 6th Amendment — Right to Attorney and Speedy Trial

  • 2nd Amendment — Right to Bear Arms

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