I teach an American Government course to 8th grade students. We study all the branches of government, as well as the election process, political parties, and our Constitution.
In the very beginning of the school year, students go to isidewith to answer questions about their political leanings. They are then placed into groups based on their responses. Students then create their own political parties and select any five issues that they find the most important to our country. Students develop a platform based on their issue and research the regions of the country and demographics who will vote for them. Students present their political parties. At this time, students are allowed to switch political parties, which we also can do freely in our country.
Each member of the political party then creates a presidential candidate. We go through the primary ad caucus process until each political party has one candidate. Then we hold a general election. We use an electoral college game to show how the election would be different if only if two of the candidates ran versus three versus four.
At this point, we have a president. Then all students are divided into the House and Senate. Each student writes a bill based on an issue important to her. House and Senate leadership is voted on, committees are made. Bills then try to make it through the entire process to become a law. Most bills die in Committee and rarely is a bill signed into law (the past five years).
We end the year by looking at current Supreme Court cases. Students either become a lawyer or justice. Cases are argued and justices must make a decision based on the justice they are portraying. I try to select cases that will ideally be decided before the year ends so we can see how well the students matched with the real Supreme Court.
This involvement all year keeps students active. They watch the news and read current events on their own. They have the opportunity to give voice to the issues important to them and to create possible solutions for those issues.