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Welcome to The Dirksen Congressional Center's Communicator–a web-based e-newsletter providing educators with news and ideas to improve the understanding of Congress:



  1. People Who Served in Congress
  2. Congress Defined
  3. *New* Lesson Plan: Congress and Gay Marriage
  4. *New* Dirksen Video Segments
  5. *New* Project: 14 Units to Learn How a Bill Becomes a Law
  6. *New* Editorial Cartoons
  7. Internet Research Project Idea
  8. *New* American Congress Government Simulation & Trivia
  9. Postscript Information



Deadline: April 15, 2009

Congress in the Classroom is a national, award-winning education program now in its 17th year. Developed and sponsored by The Dirksen Congressional Center, the workshop is dedicated to the exchange of ideas and information on teaching about Congress.

We designed Congress in the Classroom for high school or middle school teachers who teach U.S. history, government, civics, political science, or social studies. Forty teachers will be selected in 2009 to take part in the program. All online applications must be received by no later than April 15, 2009. We will notify individuals of our decisions by April 30, 2009.

Although the workshop will feature a variety of sessions, the 2009 program will focus on two themes:  (1) developments in the 111th Congress, and (2) new resources for teaching about Congress. The workshop consists of two types of sessions: those that focus on recent research and scholarship about Congress (and don't always have an immediate application in the classroom) and those geared to specific ways to teach students about the federal legislature.

Throughout the program, you will work with subject matter experts as well as colleagues from across the nation. This combination of firsthand knowledge and peer-to-peer interaction will give you new ideas, materials, and a professionally enriching experience.

“Until now so much of what I did in my class on Congress was straight theory—this is what the Constitution says,” noted one of our teachers. “Now I can use these activities and illustrations to help get my students involved in the class and at the very least their community but hopefully in the federal government. This workshop has given me a way to help them see how relevant my class is and what they can do to help make changes in society.”

The 2009 workshop will be held Monday, July 27 - Thursday, July 30, at Embassy Suites, East Peoria, Illinois.

The program is certified by the Illinois State Board of Education for up to 22 Continuing Education Units. The program also is endorsed by the National Council for the Social Studies.

Participants are responsible for (1) a non-refundable $155 registration fee (required to confirm acceptance after notice of selection) and (2) transportation to and from Peoria, Illinois. Many school districts will pay all or a portion of these costs.

The Center pays for three nights lodging at the headquarters hotel (providing a single room for each participant), workshop materials, local transportation, all but three meals, and presenter honoraria and expenses. The Center spends between $30,000 and $35,000 to host the program each year.

What follows are the sessions planned for the 2009 edition of Congress in the Classroom®. Please re-visit the site for changes as the program develops.

  • The View from Capitol Hill
    Aaron Schock, freshman member of the House of Representatives from Illinois’s 18th congressional district INVITED

  • Congressional Insight
    A team-oriented, highly interactive simulation of a Congress member’s first term CONFIRMED

  • The Ten Most Important Things to Know About the U.S. House of Representatives
    Raymond Smock, Director of the Robert C. Byrd Center for Legislative Studies, Shepherd University and former Historian of the House CONFIRMED

  • The Ten Most Important Things to Know About the U.S. Senate
    Betty K. Koed, Assistant Historian, U.S. Senate Historical Office CONFIRMED

  • How We Developed the Art and History Sections of the New Capitol Visitor Center
    Maria Marable-Bunch and Carol Beebe, Public Programs Division, Capitol Visitor Center CONFIRMED

  • Resources for Teachers from the House of Representatives
    Kathleen Johnson, Historical Publications Specialist, Office of History and Preservation, Office of the Clerk, U.S. House of Representatives CONFIRMED

  • Teaching with Primary Sources:  The Library of Congress's Teaching with Primary Sources (TPS) program
    Cindy Rich, Project Director, Teaching with Primary Sources, Eastern Illinois University CONFIRMED

  • What Do Our Students See When They Look at Congress?
    Jeffrey Bernstein, Department of Political Science, Eastern Michigan University CONFIRMED

  •  The Congressional Glossary Project
    Michael Kirby, Managing Editor, Federal Network, Inc. CONFIRMED

  • Evaluating the New President:  What Factors Account for Success in the Oval Office?
    Frank H. Mackaman, The Dirksen Congressional Center CONFIRMED

  • How to Get Your Point Across to Congress Members
    Stephanie Vance, Advocacy Associates, Washington, DC CONFIRMED

  • The Influence of the Internet on Political Information and Engagement
    Julie Barko Germany, Director, Institute for Politics, Democracy & the Internet, The George Washington University’s Graduate School of Political Management CONFIRMED

  • The Business of Politics and Managing Congressional Service
    Nicole Folk Cooper, Director of Marketing and Publications, Congressional Management Foundation CONFIRMED

Take a look at The Dirksen Center Web site - -- to see what participants say about the program.

* Registration *

If you are interested in registering for the Congress in the Classroom® 2009 workshop, you can complete an online registration form found at:


    Sketches of famous and not-so-famous Senators and Representatives

Russell Long (D-LA) (1918-2003). When Russell Long was elected in November 1948 as a Democrat from Louisiana, he became the only person in U.S. history to have been preceded in that body by both his father and his mother. The son of Huey P. Long, the legendary populist known as Kingfish who as governor of Louisiana and a senator ran the state's political machinery with almost dictatorial power until he was assassinated in 1935, Russell Long was elected to the Senate, just days before reaching the constitutional minimum age of 30.

Long was known for his knowledge of tax laws. In 1953, he began serving on the tax-writing Senate Finance Committee and was the chairman from 1966 until Republicans assumed control of the Senate in 1981. When Hubert H. Humphrey was nominated for vice president in 1964, Mr. Long became the Democratic whip in the Senate, one of the most powerful posts in Congress.

Biographical Directory of the U.S. Congress

African-Americans in Congress:  Robert Brown Elliott (1842-1884). A Republican from South Carolina, Brown served in the House from 1871-1874. Possessing a strong, clear voice “suggestive of large experience in outdoor speaking,” Elliott fought passionately to pass a comprehensive civil rights bill in his two terms in Congress. However, his fealty to the South Carolina Republican Party led him to resign his seat in the U.S. House of Representatives to serve the state government in Columbia.

White colleagues received Elliott coolly when he arrived in the House. His dark skin came as a shock, as the two other African Americans on the floor, Joseph Rainey and Jefferson Long, were light-skinned mulattos. Described as the first “genuine African” in Congress, Elliott seemed to embody the new political opportunities—and southern white apprehensions—ushered in by emancipation. Elliott was given a position on the Committee on Education and Labor, where he served during both of his terms.


Black Americans in Congress at

Biographical Directory of the U.S. Congress

Women in Congress:  Edith Nourse Rogers (1881-1960). As a nursing volunteer and advocate for veterans across the country during and after World War I, Edith Nourse Rogers was thrust into political office when her husband, Representative John Jacob Rogers, died in 1925. During her 35-year House career, the longest congressional tenure of any woman to date, Rogers, a Republican from Massachusetts, authored legislation that had far-reaching effects on American servicemen and women, including the creation of the Women's Army Corp and the GI Bill of Rights.


Women in Congress at

Biographical Directory of the U.S. Congress


    Words and phrases that describe congressional processes

Jefferson’s Manual. JEFFERSON'S MANUAL is a book of rules of procedure and parliamentary philosophy. It was written by Thomas Jefferson in 1801 when, as Vice President, he presided over the Senate. The Senate does not use Jefferson's Manual, while the House uses it as a supplement to its standing rules.




The objective of this lesson is two-fold.  First is to educate students on the history of “gay marriage,” that is, how Congress has approached the debate over gay marriage and what legislation Congress members have passed or attempted to pass on this issue. The second is to have students discuss their feelings on this issue and have them attempt to understand how Congress members must balance their own personal views with those of their constituents and what might be best for the nation.

Find Congress and Gay Marriage at: 



Presented by The Museum of Broadcast Communications:

“Dirksen on Irv Kupcinet’s TV show, WTTW, Chicago.” 1967 (Time: 0:22)
 Topics:  civil rights, politics, Dirksen’s bid for re-election, Senate business, Lyndon Johnson, and Nelson Rockefeller

“Dirksen at the 1952 Republican National Convention.” July 9, 1952 (Time: 1:00)
Topics:  Chicago history; politics, Illinois history, Republican Party, and campaign 1952



The legislative process is a fascinating, important, and complex set of actions whose excitement and variability are not fully captured in the standard "a bill becomes a law" chart. While the formal stages in the legislative process are a good place to start, it is important to recognize alternative routes. Legislation passes or fails both on the quality of its content and the strategies of its opponents and proponents. This module uses text, graphics, and video to enliven students' understanding of the legislative process and to allow them to explore in-depth its various facets.

Find 14 Units to Learn How a Bill Becomes a Law at:



The Dirksen Congressional Center recently announced the completion of the Editorial Cartoon Collection project:

The editorial cartoons and related lesson plans from The Dirksen Center will teach students to identify issues, analyze symbols, acknowledge the need for background knowledge, recognize stereotypes and caricatures, think critically, and appreciate the role of irony and humor.

This month we have posted five new cartoons:

We now have a total of 69 cartoons posted!



Have your students refer to the “Treasures of Congress Exhibit” Web site posted on AboutGovernment -- In 2000-2001, the National Archives created an exhibit featuring a sampling of the landmark documents created by or delivered to Congress.  The essence of the exhibit is captured in this online resource.

Ask your students to make a record of family treasures (books, tools, musical instruments, tickets, letters, photographs) using photographs, photocopies, drawings, recordings, or videotapes. Read the letters and then research the time and events surrounding the letters in other sources. Analyze the opinions and views of the letter-writer based on the time and events of the period. Put the treasures into the historical context of Congress. What was happening in Congress when ancestors were using the family treasures? How did those congressional events affect your family? What are your family’s “landmark documents?

Prepare a community time capsule with the class. What primary sources (the “landmark documents”) will you include to describe your present-day community for future generations? Which primary sources will help get your message across? When should your time capsule be opened?

Examples of primary sources: family photographs (of ancestors and their homes), memorabilia, souvenirs, recipes, ancestors' clothes, ancestors' papers, oral histories, local historical societies, genealogical information.



In American Congress you get to play as a Representative, Mayor, or Governor. You basically simulate the wide-ranging and complex American government. It's in your hands whether you want to legalize abortion, declare war on a small country, or destroy your political rivals!

Find American Congress Government Simulation at:

Trivia: Which Speaker of the House later became President of the United States?

  1. James Nance Garner
  2. James Madison
  3. Harry S. Truman
  4. James K. Polk

*Find the answer in next month's issue.

Answer to February 2009's Fun, Facts, and Trivia:



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