Branches of Power (Gr. 4-12)

Branches of Power – Building humble issues into towering laws

Branches of Power is one of eight interactive modules available from Sunnylands Civics Games. In this module students take on roles in each of the three branches of the United States government: Congressional, Executive, and Judicial. Students float among the three branches as they follow an issue from its beginnings in a public forum to local governments, then to Congress and all the way to the desk of the President.

If this is their first time visiting the site, after reading through the directions have students start by going through the tutorial. This will pre-configure the players and allow them to focus more on the government processes themselves. There are many variables, values, and interest groups that students will need to consider at each step in the legislative process. Once students have a feel for the game, have them move to the main game module where they get to configure their own players within each government branch. Students will need to, for example, select what values their legislator will fight for and what issues will make up their Executive branch’s agenda. Winning occurs when students successfully turn all ten issues into laws, represented by towers on the game board.

This site requires Flash.

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  • If you don’t have access to a 1-to-1 environment for students to run their own governments, then project the site onto a whiteboard and divide them up into three groups  (the three branches) and have them make decisions by consensus.
  • After a game session is finished, have students reflect on the choices they made and places where they could have taken a different path.

Television Archive News Search Service (Gr. 5-12)

Television Archive News Search Service – 900,000 results and growing

Provided thanks to the non-profit group Internet Archive, the Television Archive contains over 909,000 video clips from news agencies in the United States and Great Britain. Search the database based on keyword and/or filter your results by number of views, title, date archived, or creator. Use the topic cloud down the right-side of the page to look up video clips from specific news agencies such as the BBC News, Mad Money, Frontline, Teen Kids News and more.

Once you make a selection, a film strip-like interface will load breaking down the video clip into 1-minute segments. Each segment will start out playing in a smaller window but can be expanded to play full screen. Many of the video clips also support closed captioning. Video segments can be shared via social media or embedded onto your website.

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Website of the Week: Clouds Over Cuba (Gr. 6-12)

Clouds Over Cuba – A documentary of the Cuban Missile Crisis

Produced by the John F. Kennedy Memorial Library and Museum, this interactive site chronicles the events leading up to and following the Cuban Missile Crisis that took place in the early 1960’s. The site tells the story via a 25-minute documentary video, divided into seven chapters. Of particular note is chapter six ‘What If?’ where they look at an alternate future when we were unable to avoid a nuclear conflict. Where the site really shows its strength is in the supplemental material provided which includes documents, photos, audio clips, and film footage of people, places, and events. As you progress through the documentary, the site will add these items to your dossier for reference later. In addition, the site has a mobile component so that, with a special pin number from the site, you can access the film and items in your dossier from your mobile phone.


  • This is an amazing primary reference resource for students researching topics from this era. The potential for numerous class discussions surrounding the decisions made, the people involved, and the consequences are almost boundless.
  • The chapter about an alternative ending to this conflict is very powerful and emotional at times. As always, it is recommended that teachers preview the content and use their own judgement in how to use this and if any preparation should be done prior to student access.

Chapter 1, Act 3, changes in Cuba

Website of the Week: U.S. Electoral Compass (Gr. 6-12)

U.S. Electoral Compass – How do political priorities change from state to state?

Hosted by the The Guardian News and designed by the social media monitoring experts Brandwatch, this interactive ‘compass’ displays the percentages with which Twitter and online news sites were talking about certain issues in the weeks and months leading up to the 2012 Presidential election in the United States. To activate the compass, choose a state from the list on the left-hand side of the page, then select a date between July 2nd and November 12th from the timeline along the bottom. This will then activate the electoral compass and display data on 30 different policy topics and issues. Change the compass results by selecting another date on the timeline and/or by choosing a different state.

The compass separates the results by political party; results in red represent conversations that included candidate Mitt Romney, results in blue represent those that mentioned Barack Obama. Along the right-hand side of the compass you will find the list of policy topics ranked by importance in that state, as well as some basic biographical information on that state.


  • This site has a lot of potential for several compare-&-contrast activities over time and by state.
  • Start a discussion with students about the role of social media in our electoral process and where they and/or their parents went to consume information about the election.
  • Since the site doesn’t tell us from which news organizations they pulled their data from, ask students to evaluate the credibility of these results.

Thanks goes to for sharing this find.

Website of the Week: Cuban Missle Crisis (Gr. 6-12)

Cuban Missile Crisis – Role-play as President JFK

This simple and straight-forward site asks students to sit in the ‘big chair’ as President John F. Kennedy at the time when the United States was facing the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. Students will need to consult with each of their cabinet of advisers to get their perspective on the matter by navigating the image map on the page. Students should also consult the brief put together by the CIA. Finally, based on the data they have collected students must choose from five possible actions to take.


  • Use this site to develop personalities and scripts in order to role-play the event in the classroom. Have students gather research on the major players so that they may better portray them in the simulation.
  • Ask students to hypothesize  how our current president might have handled the situation differently.

A screenshot of the main page with the 5 possible choices listed

Website of the Week: The National Archives

The National Archives – America’s historical documents

Recently, Richard Byrne over at shared a Civil War resource (General Lee’s map of Gettysburg) from the historical documents section of the U.S. National Archives website. In addition to the Civil War, the site has additional documents around the Constitution, Emancipation, the Louisiana Purchase, and even the Apollo 11 flight plan. These documents can be viewed online as well as downloaded to your computer, often in hi-resolution format.

In addition to historical documents the site has sections devoted to ancestry research, World War II photography, and the recently released 1940 Census. There is also a section devoted specifically to teachers that contains lesson plans along with materials for school tours, getting started with primary resources research, and where to find related resources from their network of state and regional locations.

Website of the Week: The Economics of Seinfeld (Gr. 7-12)

The Economics of Seinfeld – Connecting video clips to economic concepts

The Economics of Seinfeld has put together a listing of video clips from the popular “show about nothing” known as Seinfeld to help illustrate a variety of economic concepts and topics. The site has connected over 100 video clips to economic concepts such as intellectual property rights, unlimited wants, supply & demand, movement along a demand curve, trade-offs and more. Each video post is accompanied by a description of the clip, the season the episode aired, the duration of the clip, and comments from other users to help expand the discussion.


  • Please note that the site does not host the actual video clips but rather links to them from other sources, so it would be advisable to take the video clip(s) you would like to use in class for a test drive.
  • Ask students to investigate other popular shows and series to find examples to help illustrate the concepts being discussed in class.

For more information, please visit Richard Byrne over at

Exploring The Far East

Exploring The Far East: Myers & Dalton Teams

Each year 7th grade students at MSK immerse themselves in the diverse cultures, people and customs that exist in countries and how they compare to life here in Kennebunk, Maine. So please join us as we journey to China, Japan and other countries to learn about what life is like on the other side of the globe – oh, and make sure you have your passport ready!

China Connections w/The Myers Team


East Asia Adventures w/The Dalton Team


If you’d like to see and hear more, please visit our school multimedia site here.

Website of the Week: Taking the Mystery Out of Copyright

Taking the Mystery Out of Copyright (Gr. 3-12)

Produced by the Library of Congress, follow detective Cop E. Wright as she investigates what is copyright, a timeline of how copyright laws developed, and how to register your own copyright electronically! Click the link just above the interactive window to see which academic standards this activity meets for your state. Click the link at the bottom of the window: “View a plain text version of this activity” for those who would like printed copies of the materials.


  • This is a pretty nifty site to use with students to not just teach about copyright laws but also what it means to be a good digital citizen.
  • Have students select a piece of digital work that they are especially proud of and go through the process of registering a copyright for that product.

Website of the Week: HistoryTeachers Channel

HistoryTeachers – History for Music Lovers (Gr. 6-12)

Created by two history teachers from Honolulu, Hawaii, HistoryTeachers has over 50 music videos that cover such topics as Napoleon, The French Revolution, Shakespeare, Pompeii, Vikings and more. Their YouTube channel has been going strong for almost 3 years now with new videos being uploaded about once a month. Below is their video about William the Conqueror and the Battle of Hastings. I will never forget the year 1066 again!


  • Use a video to help introduce a new unit and start a class discussion about the topic, the players involved, how it affects them personally, etc.
  • Obviously, if you don’t find a video on your topic then maybe you could ask your students to make their own music video!

Thanks to ktenkely for sharing this find!