Click below to access lesson plans created for your grade level.
Ensure students understand the communities in which they live.
Give students colored pencils and paper and ask them to draw a map of their community. What places are important to them? Examples include houses, schools, parks, playgrounds, ice cream shops, movie theaters, religious institutions, sports venues, or bowling alleys. Any place they view as important is a part of their community!
Consider how community needs vary across the state or region.
Consider ways to incorporate geography into multiple subjects. National Geographic Giant Maps can be used to teach history, geography, and economics as wells as civics and reading. They support STEM learning with discussions about geometry, scale, and physical landscape features. Along with tabletop maps, they also offer students different ways to explore the Earth and to develop map skills.
Think about how elementary civics standards in your state could be supported by materials on this website. While most elementary students are not learning details about the Electoral College or considering in which state senate district they reside, fifth graders in Colorado, for example, are expected to "describe how the decisions of the national government affect local and state government," as stated in the 2020 Colorado Academic Standards.
This lesson is intended for fourth and fifth graders.
Develop a baseline understanding of population change over time.
“On the Move” lessons for each state explore migration, geographic features, settlement choices, economic opportunities, and historical development. Identify the fifteen largest cities over three historical time periods in your state, then imagine how to divide the state into multiple electoral districts. These lessons are designed for anyone, fourth grade to adult.
The step-by-step instructions guide students to examine topics such as water, ecosystems, and weather.
Explain the Census, apportionment, and redistricting in straightforward terms.
Imagine apportionment in terms of portioning ice cream. Task students with imagining they have one enormous tub of ice cream, and say it is up to them to decide how many scoops each state should get based on the state’s population. Explain redistricting in terms of pizza. Logically, you would want to cut the pizza into equal slices so that everybody can have fair shares of crust and toppings. Gerrymandering is the act of intentionally cutting yourself the most desirable slice (however you define that) and purposefully giving some other people slices you do not want.
Introduce redistricting criteria for your state.
Understanding the criteria and how they influence district boundaries are essential to explaining redistricting. State criteria can be found through multiple resources, including Ballotpedia and the National Conference of State Legislatures. Students can use the hands-on Flashes of Insight activity from DrawTheLinesPA or explore the online version to discuss and prioritize values.
Have students describe and draw their communities.
Understanding one’s own neighborhood, community, and region provides a baseline for articulating the needs and concerns of the people in that community. Determine whether your state’s redistricting criteria includes formal information about how communities of interest (COI) are addressed in your state or town. Set up a class "Organization" on Representable.org to enable students to see how their interpretations of community are similar or different in terms of geography and description with their classmates. Discuss how they would communicate their community needs to elected officials.
Provide students with tools so they can practice drawing their own electoral districts.
Are your students technologically savvy and ready to jump right into redistricting? Invite them to choose one of the open-source software platforms, most of which have multiple online tutorials to get users started on the process. These free and accessible online tools include: DistrictR, District Builder, and Dave’s Redistricting App.
Are your students in need of some additional practice before they start to draw electoral districts? 1. Start with the Esri Gerrymandering GeoInquiry to review skills in GIS and learn the basics about gerrymandering. 2. Move to the ArcGIS Online Redistricting Exercise that can be found on each state's GeoCivics website (https://geocivics.uccs.edu/stateresources). This activity is designed for students and community members. Print or download the “Redistricting Instructions for ArcGIS Online Exercise”. Click on “ArcGIS Online Redistricting Exercise”. Follow the directions. Capture the final map and save it as a pdf. Complete the survey at the end of the instructions. 3. Return to online tutorials for the redistricting programs referenced above.
Have students upload their maps to a website for evaluation.
Ask students to think about how their maps, and the congressional or state legislative maps in their states, are assessed by tools programed to look for outliers, such as PlanScore or Five-Thirty-Eight.