(All of these projects are condensed from American Government Internet Activities by Karen Casto, published by West Wadsworth, 1998.)


And Now Let's Begin. . . . .


One approach to finding the information you are seeking is to begin at one of the sites that has its own index or search engine. The Thomas site is an example. The following exercise is intended only for those students who aren't expert Internet users, or who are unfamiliar with the government sites available for searching.


Activity: Thomas and Me


URL: http://thomas.loc.gov/


Goal: To learn to use the world wide web to retrieve information on a topic or to find specific information.


Begin this first activity by going to the index page, or what is known as the home or main page of the Thomas web site. As you will notice, it is organized into seven main sections: Congress This Week, Bills, The Congressional Record, Committee Information, Historical Documents, The Legislative Process, and U.S. Government Internet Resources. Spend a little time exploring the Thomas website. Follow some of the links to obtain information that may reflect your own interests. Check out the Committee schedules, or check to see which bills are scheduled for debate.


Activity: Ideology


URL: http://www.conservative.org/




Goal: To learn to discriminate between liberal and conservative political ideology.


Visit the American Conservative Union's website at the first URL listed above. Select the link to "Statement of Principles" in the left-hand column labeled About ACU:. Read the statement of principles, and answer the following questions:


Select the back button on your browser to return to the main page of the ACU. Then select the link in the right-hand column that allows you to "Take the ACU Ratings Test." This test allows you to compare yourself with the ACU's ratings on conservative positions on major bills in Congress. Take the test. Cast your votes and compare yourself against others who have been identified as conservative or liberal.

  • What is your score?
  • Does your score match your own appraisal of your political ideology?

    Go to the second URL listed above to the Americans for Democratic Action's website. The ADA is one of the major liberal political organizations in the United States. Select the link to "Events" in the right-hand column. Then select the link to "view the platform from the June 1996 convention" of the ADA. Read the platform and answer the following questions:




    Activity: The Constitution's History


    URL: http://thomas.loc.gov/


    Goal: To examine historical documents related to the Constitution at the Library of Congress.


    The Library of Congress's Thomas website contains links to historical documents associated with the history of the U.S. Constitution. Go to the URL listed above and select the link to "historical documents' in the left-hand column. Then select the link to "ABOUT the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and Other Amendments." Read the document entitled "About the Constitution of the United States" and answer the following questions:


    Select the "back" button on your browser to return to the "historical documents" section of the Thomas website, select the link to the "Federalist Papers" on the top button bar, and then select the link to "browse A list of titles of the 85 Federalist Papers." Scroll down to document number 85 and select the link to it.

    Activity: The First Amendment


    URL: http://w3.trib.com/FACT/


    Goal: To examine the protections embodied in the Constitution's first amendment.




    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peacefully to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.


    Go to the URL listed above and you will find the First Amendment Cyber-Tribune (FACT) website. FACT is a website run by a journalist and hosted by the Casper, Wyoming, Star-Tribune. Scroll down the main page and select the box with the link labeled "Religious liberty." Then select the first link to "Overview of U.S. Supreme Court decisions impacting religion." Read the document on Freedom of Religion and answer the following questions:

    Activity: Federalism and State Governments


    URL: http://www.csg.org/federalism.html


    Goal: To explore ways in which state and local governments relate to the federal government.


    Go to the URL above and you will find a description of a recent federalism summit that was attended by the Council of State Governments, the National Conference of State Legislatures, the National Governors' Association, the American Legislative Exchange Council, and the State Legislative Leaders Foundation. At the summit, state and local governmental entities explored the relationship between federalism and state and local governments. Read the Summit statement and the article by Elaine Stuart and answer the following questions:

    Activity: The Federalist Idea 200 Years Later


    URL: http://www.wnet.org/federalist


    Goal: To discuss the federalist idea in relationship to the current political climate.


    PBS Online and the WNET Public Television Station recently aired a series of programs relating the federalist idea to the current political climate. Go to the URL above and you will find the website that was associated with the program. Scroll down the left-hand column to the area called "Stories of Federalism." Select the link to "Federalism and the Supreme Court." Read the article and answer the following questions:




    Activity: A Visit to a Museum

    URL: http://www.mecca.org/~crights/ncrm.html

    Goal: To place the struggle of African-Americans for their civil rights in its historical context.


    The National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennessee focuses on the civil rights struggle that took place in the 1950s and 1960s in the United States. One of the features at its website is the opportunity to take a "virtual tour" of some of the exhibits at the museum.



    Activity: The Rights of Persons with Disabilities


    URL: http://www.usdoj.gov/crt/ada/adahom1.htm


    Goal: To study the government's protection of persons with disabilities.


    Go to the URL above and you will find the U.S. Department of Justice's website for the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990. Read the materials and answer the following questions:




    Activity: Exploring Interest Groups


    URL: http://www.policy.com/


    Goal: To explore the Internet websites of selected interest groups.


    Go to the URL listed above and you will be at Policy.com, a website devoted to American public policy. Select the link to Advocacy Groups in the left-hand frame. Policy.com maintains a substantial website with Internet links to virtually every topic in American Government. Their list of links to advocacy groups is very comprehensive. You have already visited some interest group websites in previous activities, including the American Conservative Union, Americans for Democratic Action, and the Center for Democracy and Technology.

    * Select five interest groups you have not visited yet and go to their websites by selecting the link from policy.com's list. Explore each website.

    * Summarize the main issues for which each of the groups you selected has a position. Some interest groups are associated with a very narrow range of issues, while others, such as the ADA, maintain positions on a broad variety of issues.

    * For each organization you selected, categorize them according to ideology. Are they liberal, conservative, or are you unable to categorize them?



    Activity: Campaign Financing


    URL: http://www.crp.org/index.html-ssi


    Goal: To discover where the money came from in the last election.


    Go to the Non-Partisan Center for Responsive Politics Home Page at the URL above. The Center for Responsive Politics maintains a profile for all members of congress who ran in the 1996 election. This profile lists all campaign contributions and their sources. Select the link to these profiles at the "www.opensecrets.org" box in the center of the web page. You will be at the Open Secrets Interactive website that tracks campaign contributions. Begin by selecting the "click here" link at the bottom of the page. Scroll down to your state and select the link to either your senator or congressman. Read the material and answer the following questions:




    Activity: The Media's Popularity


    URL: http://www.theatlantic.com/atlantic/issues/96feb/media/media.htm (this URL takes up 2 lines, but should be entered, without spaces, as one line in your browser)


    Goal: To discover some of the reasons why Americans may not wholly trust the media.


    The Atlantic Monthly has an archive of issues on the Internet with articles of interest to students of American government. Go to the URL above and you will find an article titled "Why Americans Hate the Media." Read the article and answer the following questions:




    Activity: Congress on the Web


    URL: http://voter.cq.com/






    Goal: To explore websites with congressional information.


    Go to the first URL above and you will find The Congressional Quarterly's American Voter website. This website contains current news about Congress, the latest news from Washington, reference files and data, and a place to post your own views on Congress.



    Go to the second URL above and you will find the Vote-Smart organization's Congress Track Internet web site. Select the link to the "National Political Awareness Test."


  • Take the link to the blank version of the test and examine the questions.
  • Do you think that this test, which was taken by candidates for Congress, is a more careful measure of the opinions and attitudes of the person taking it than the test at the Congressional Quarterly website?
  • Select the back button on your browser and examine how your Congressman did on the NPAT. Do you think that this is a useful way to determine a candidate's stands on the issues?



    Activity: Presidents Past and Future


    URL: http://www.whitehouse.gov/WH/Welcome.html






    Goal: To locate and explore the major presidential websites.


    Go to the first URL listed above and you will be in a "virtual" White House, with information on the President and Vice President, an interactive Citizens' Handbook, and links to commonly requested federal services.


    Select the link to "White House History and Tours:" in the left-hand column. On the next page select the link to "The Presidents of the United States." On the next page select a link to any President in the left-hand column (Washington through Arthur).




    Activity: The Federal Court System


    URL: http://www.uscourts.gov/




    Goal: To be able to locate information about the federal court system and opinions from court cases in the federal system.


    Go to the United States Federal Courts' Home Page at the first URL listed above. Select the link to "Understanding the Federal Courts" on the blue button bar at the top of the page. Select the link to the "path" a case takes as it works its way through the federal court system. Answer the following questions about the document retrieved.


  • How many U.S. District Courts are there?
  • Each district court judge is appointed for life, with the exception of which courts?
  • How is the chief judge designated in each district?
  • Describe the responsibilities of magistrate judges.
  • Select the link to "Figure 3" which depicts a flow-chart of how a civil case works its way through the federal court system. List theseven basic steps that each case follows through the system.
  • Go to the FindLaw website at the second URL listed above. This website maintains a substantial database of court opinions from the federal court system.
  • Select the link to the "9th Circuit" in the right-hand column under the Court of Appeals Decisions section of the web page. Then select the link to "Recent Cases." List five recent cases from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and comment.



    Activity: Public Policy Issues


    URL: http://www.policy.com/


    Goal: To find the Internet resources relating to public policy decision-making.


    Go to the Policy.com website at the URL listed above. Policy.com is devoted to exploring public policy issues of interest to Americans. Select the link to the "Index" in the top of the center column of the website. You will then be at the policy.com site map, with summaries of the locations of information on various public policy issues. From the Issue of the Week section, select the "Issue of the Week Archives." Then select the issue titled "Welfare to Work" from the May 19-25 issue of Policy.com. Read the sections titled "Introduction" and "Resources." Answer the following questions:





    Activity: The National Budget


    URL: http://cher.eda.doc.gov/BudgetFY97/guidetoc.html




    Goal: To gather information on the national budget on the Internet.


    Go to the first URL listed above and you will find a document titled "A Citizen's Guide to the Federal Budget." This document was written by the Office of Management and Budget out of the Executive Office of the President. It was written to enable citizens to obtain general information about the budgeting process.


    Select the link to "4. Deficits and the Debt." Read the materials and answer the following questions:





    Activity: Foreign Policy Websites


    URL: http://www.intellectualcapital.com




    Goal: To explore foreign policy websites on the Internet.


    Go to the first URL above and you will find the Intellectual Capital.com website. This website is devoted to weekly discussions of public policy issues, and the information is presented in a magazine format. The issue of the week is frequently foreign-policy oriented.


    Scroll down and select the link to "IC Archives-Back Issues" in the Library section at the very end of the main page. Then select the link to the "April 24, 1997" Issue, "Is Free Trade Fair/" Select the link to Bob Kolasky's article which provides an overview of the current trade debate. Read the article and answer the following questions:


    Go to the second URL listed above and you will be at the U.S. Department of State's website.




    Internet State and Local Government Resources


    URL: http://www.piperinfo.com/state/states.html




    Goal: To discover and explore sources of information on state and local governments on the Internet.