Launchpad: Constitution of the United States of America, 6–12

Picture the Founding Fathers | Branching Out: The Three Branches of Government | Amending the Constitution

Picture the Founding Fathers

Visit the painting by Howard Chandler Christy that recreates the scene of the Constitutional Convention.

You may also want to look at the mural of the Founding Fathers in the National Archives building, painted by Barry Faulkner.

Choose one of the delegates of the Constitution from the list of signatories available here. Next, find the delegate in the interactive painting of the Constitutional Convention. Click on that delegate’s picture, and then click to learn more about him. Once you’ve read his biography, write a page explaining why you believe this delegate voted to ratify this document, based on what you have learned about the delegate from his biography and what you have learned about the Constitution.


Branching Out: The Three Branches of Government and Our System of Checks and Balances

Answer the following questions using the information provided in the text of the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the remaining Amendments. Be sure to explain your answers!

The practice of dividing the legislative branch into two separate bodies is called bicameralism. Why do you think that the Founding Fathers chose a bicameral (the prefix bi- means two) rather than a unicameral (the prefix uni--means one, so a unicameral legislature would only have one body)?

Justice Sandra Day O’Connor recently stepped down from the Supreme Court, and Chief Justice Rhenquist died in office in September, leaving two of the court’s nine seats open. Who has the power, according to the Constitution, to appoint a new justice to fill that seat? Which branch of the government has a check on the power of appointment, and what is that check? How does this process balance the power of the three branches?

What happens if Congress passes a law that contradicts another law or rights that exist in the Constitution and its Amendments? Imagine that Congress has just passed a law outlawing newspapers. Which Constitutional right would this law violate? Which branch of government could check this legislative action, and how would that branch perform that check?

 


"Amending the Constitution"

Answer the following questions about the Amendments to the Constitution, using the information provided in the text the Bill of Rights and the remaining Amendments to elaborate upon your answers.

Choose one amendment from the Bill of Rights that directly affects you or your family. Write two paragraphs comparing what your life would be like in America without this amendment to how you live now.

Choose a different amendment from among Amendments 11–27. Consider how the selected amendment has affected the United States as a whole. Is the amendment an improvement to the original Constitution? Write one to two paragraphs

explaining how you believe this amendment has made a significant impact on American life and how you believe it is (or is not) an improvement to the original Constitution.