The Big Idea Activity

Why do people form governments?

Hold a Federalist Debate

Students working on the Activity

Hold a class debate. You and your classmates will take the position of a Federalist or an Antifederalist. Debaters will use facts and persuasive language to argue why they are either for or against the ratification of the U.S. Constitution. California Standard 5.7 Students describe the people and events associated with the development of the U.S. Constitution and analyze the Constitution's significance as the foundation of the American republic.

Research RoadmapPrint the Research Roadmap. Use it to take notes and hand it in to your teacher when you make your presentation.


Topic Finder

Need help finding a topic? Explore these ideas for research...The Federal Government.

Case Study

Here's an example of a topic you could choose for the Big Idea Activity: The President of the United States is the head of the executive branch of government. Did you know that there are just three conditions for becoming President? You must be at least 35 years old, a natural-born citizen, and have lived in the country for at least 14 years. And of course, you also need to win the election! If you could ask the President why people form governments, what do you think he would say?

Fun Facts Did you know that Ronald Reagan's secret service code name was “Rawhide", or that President Kennedy kept the White House pool at a toasty 90 degrees? There are many fun facts and presidential secrets about life at the White House.


How does a government affect people's lives? Create a list of different forms of government such as democracy, monarchy, or dictatorship. Discuss how the different kinds of governments can make people's lives better or worse.

The Statue of Liberty is a symbol of freedom and democracy.

Many people have immigrated to the United States because they disagreed with the government in their homeland. Learn more about the immigrant experience at Ellis Island.


The Constitution of the United States

A Weak Plan of Government

In 1777, Congress approved the Articles of Confederation. The articles did not create a strong enough government for America

Planning a New Government

The "Great Compromise" split the legislature into the House of Representatives and the Senate.

The Constitution

The U.S. Constitution separates the powers of the national government into three branches. The government's powers are split among the executive, legislative, and judicial branches.

States Approve the Constitution

Changes to the Constitution are called amendments. The first ten amendments are known as the Bill of Rights.

A New Republic

In 1790, the national government moved from Philadelphia to land along the Potomac River. Maryland and Virginia gave up land to form a new area called the District of Columbia for the nation's new capital.

Early Years of the United States

Crossing the Appalachians

Daniel Boone was one of the explorers to find the Cumberland Gap in the Appalachian Mountains. He helped to create the Wilderness Road, which was the main route for Americans heading west.

The Louisiana Purchase

The Louisiana Purchase doubled the size of the United States. America bought the French territory for $15 million, which would be about $200 million today.

The War of 1812

In the War of 1812, the British attacked Washington, D.C. The entire American government fled the capital.