US History Through the Lens of Supreme Court Cases


Teacher:  Elizabeth Keschner

Ages:   12-14

Mat Fees:  $30

Class Fees:

Fall:        11 weeks:  $260 or $250 if taking 2 or more classes

Winter:  10 weeks:  $245 or $235 if taking 2 or more classes

Spring:  10 weeks:  $245 or $235 if taking 2 or more classes


Homework:  YES!   This is a reading and project based class.  Kids will demonstrate an understanding of our history in a variety of ways, from caricatures, cartoons, powerpoints, essays, photo essays and more.   Plan on 60-90 minutes of homework / week, although it is all dependent on how much they want to embrace each project.


While the focus on this class will be on the Constitution, Bill of Rights and Pivotal Supreme Court Cases that have shaped our nation, we will start our class off with understanding the major events the preceeded our founding to help us understand why early Americans decided to experiment with a representative democracy.   We’ll understand pivotal documents that helped America and other nations form the ideals of how their country will be organized and run, and look at major political thoughts throughout the world. 


Our court cases will help us to understand the development of educational systems, women’s suffrage, the abolishment of slavery and our civil rights movement, freedom of the press, intercontinental commerce, environmental protections, access to water and more!   But we’ll also look at issues that are relevant to our students;

  • How private is their phone?Or their car?

  • What can they say?

  • What can they wear?

  • How much freedom does a minor really have?

  • What educational requirements does the state have?

  • How much equality is a right in America?

  • What did it take to obtain the vote, and what is happening today to preserve voting rights?


Most US History classes are filled with names and dates and timelines, but this class is designed to help our children truly understand the story of the path that our country has taken.    These stories and court cases will make history come alive and help our children understand and remember the importance of their history.   As we look at these court cases, we’ll also study the events of the times and why the Supreme Court decided to hear and rule on these cases.  


We will start with an understanding of our Constitution and Bill of Rights, how Justices are placed on the Supreme Court, our current Supreme Court and the most famous of our previous Justices.   A sampling of the court cases and themes that we will look at include:


  • The 14th Amendment, which forbids states from denying any person "life, liberty or property, without due process of law" or to "deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” This amendment expanded the protection of civil rights to all Americans and .  To understand how this amendment is related to equality in education, we will learn about the following cases:

    • Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), Brown v. Board of Education (1954), U of California v. Bakke (1978) and U of Texas v. Fisher (2015) – We will question whether there is such a thing as separate but equal as it relates to education?  While American History normally focuses on Brown v. Board of Education when we talk about education and racial segregation or preference, the conversation needs to start with Plessy v. Ferguson where our Supreme Court ruled for equality through separateness, and plunged America into decades of racial segregation, along with the more recent UC v. Bakke and  U of Texas v. Fisher.  Only through the highly controversial Brown v. Board of Education did segregation "officially" end.   But has it?  Does America still have segregated schools?  We'll spend time exploring these court cases through books, articles and movies, and then broaden our understanding by looking at the current landscape of public education through reading statistical graphs and charts and reading about current events in American education.   Our culminating project will be a photo essay of segregation in American education from 1892 - 2016.

  • Our 1st amendment ensures our right to Free Speech - it is one of the hallmarks of being an American and a freedom seldom seen in other countries.   But what is the history of this important freedom?   We'll look at the 1st Amendment to understand what our Constitution actually says, and then analyze to see how this right has been challenged, why flag burning is supported by the law of our land, and what protections Americans have as it relates to private data collection.  There have been a number of cases in our lower courts, and it is expected that in the near future, the Supreme Court will be asked to define how our government is allowed to collect data about citizens.   We'll briefly look at pivotal players in this ongoing saga, from Daniel Ellsberg to Julian Assange (wiki leaks) and Edward Snowden.   Our culminating project on this part of our learning will include a debate on privacy and free speech, a survey on how Americans feel about their right to privacy, and posters helping people understand what is legal and what is not as it relates to free speech in America and in other countries that do not enjoy this same right.


We'll also look at the rights of those being placed under arrest in Miranda v. Arizona (1966), and how evidence of criminal acts are allowed to be found and collected in Mapp v. Ohio (1961).   Kids will really enjoy learning about Riley v. California (2014), a case that decides if your cellphone can be used against you.