Students learn about the branches of government and the structure of tribal governments by reading passages of the Iowa State Constitution and watching a video about the development of government in Iowa. They then complete a Venn diagram comparing the federal government to the state government in Iowa, and discuss similarities and differences between federal, state, and tribal governments.
This lesson is part of "Great States: Iowa | Unit 4: Civil War and Statehood." In this unit, students will survey the role of Iowans in the Civil War and the crucial era of Iowa gaining statehood.
CG.SS.3.10: Explain how rules and laws impact society. (21st century skills)
H.SS.4.22: Infer the purpose of a primary source and from that the intended audience.
CG.SS.5.10: Describe how the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution impact the decisions of government, society, and/or communities. (21st century skills)
- Video: Great States | Iowa Government
- An interactive whiteboard, projector, or another type of screen to show videos to the class
- Excerpts of the US and Iowa State Constitutions
- Class set of Comparing Governments handout (optional)
For more information and the full text of these documents, visit: the Iowa Legislature - Constitution and the National Archives and Records Administration - The Constitution of the United States.
- Present or review the term, constitution. Explain that a constitution defines foundational principles on which a state or organization is governed. Ask students why states have their own constitutions. Indicate that each state has a different history and culture, thus not all have the same rules and policies.
- Project the preamble to both the US Constitution and the Iowa State Constitution and read the excerpts to your students. Point out that there is more of an emphasis on religion in the Iowa preamble. Ask students: “What does this indicate about Iowa in the mid-19th century, the time the State Constitution was written?” Tell students that they will be learning more about similarities and differences between Iowa and the country as a whole.
- Present or review the three branches of the federal government: the executive branch that carries out the laws (the president and administration); the legislative branch that writes the laws (Congress, which is made up of the House of Representatives, of which there are 435 members based on state population, and the Senate, two per state); and the judiciary branch that interprets the laws (the Supreme Court, the Appellate Courts, and the District Courts).
- Instruct students to take notes about the structure of both the Iowa state government and the Meskwaki Nation’s tribal government.
Play the video, Great States | Iowa Government. [3:35]
- Working either in pairs, small groups, or as a whole class, develop and review a Venn diagram comparing the US federal government to the Iowa state government. If working in pairs or small groups, distribute the Comparing Governments handout.
- Then, to conclude the lesson, ask students to think about characteristics shared by the federal, Iowa state, and Meskwaki Nation’s governments. What does each of these systems need to succeed (e.g., informed citizens, voters, absence of corruption, trust of constituents, etc.)?