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Curriculum Guide

The Government Center Content Area


The Government Center encourages youth to explore one's rights and responsibilities as a teenager, and when and how to ask for help. This content area is comprised of five units:

Click here for a complete Map of The Government Center.


For many youth, the challenges of taking charge, speaking up, and acting on their rights and responsibilities can be intimidating and confusing. Taking the time to help youth better understand the challenges of adulthood and the importance of taking responsibility for themselves can greatly increase their chances of success as they leave the high school setting. The Government Center helps youth learn about their rights and responsibilities as a teenager and as a United States citizen. The Government Center also addresses legal rights gained at the age of majority (Note: the age of majority differs from state to state, but in most states it is 18) and outlines the rights of teenagers at school, home, and work, as well as their rights within the court system.

The Government Center also addresses the importance of good communication and asking for help. Teens often struggle with asking for help and it can be one of the primary reasons that they do not succeed in high school, college, or on the job.

Youth with disabilities have additional material to engage with in The Government Center. This includes material to help them learn about the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the impact of their disability on learning and independence, how to keep records that will document their disability, how to communicate their needs, the laws that support their rights to accommodations and services, a brief history of the Disability Rights Movement, and more.

Youth Outcomes

By reading and completing online activities in The Government Center, youth will achieve the following outcomes:

  • Learn about their rights and responsibilities as teenagers and as adults.
  • Come to understand that they can still receive support from others as they make the transition from being a teenager to being an adult.
  • Learn about the Civil Rights Movement, the Disability Rights Movement, and other aspects of disability history.
  • Gain skills in decision making, communication, and asking for help.
  • Develop goals in the above areas in their Life Map.

See also:

Activities to Assign

In addition to the reading material available in each unit, there are numerous activities you may choose to assign youth. These include questions to consider for discussion or reflection, online and hands-on activities to complete, and other Web sites to explore.

1. Lead a Discussion

When working with youth in this content area, you may want to facilitate a group discussion about the topics explored in each unit. Below we’ve provided sample discussion questions to help youth explore each unit’s topic in more depth. These questions can also be used as writing assignments for youth to reflect on a topic, either confidentially in their Private Journal, or to be shared with you as their Youthhood Guide in their Class Notebook. (Note: You have the option to view and comment on their work in the Class Notebook. See Viewing & Commenting on Entries for more information.)

Discussion Questions for Knowing Your Rights & Responsibilities Unit

  • What did you learn andwhat do you already knowabout your rights and responsibilities?
  • Why is it important to take responsibility for your actions?
  • How do your rights change when you reach the age of 18 (or the age of majority in your state)?
  • What do you need to do to prepare for becoming an individual with legal adult status?

Discussion Questions for Disability Rights Unit

  • Why is it important to understand the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)?
  • How are the rights of youth with disabilities protected under IDEA?
  • What kinds of rights does the 504 Rehabilitation Act ensure and protect?

Discussion Questions for Disability History Unit

  • What kinds of things happened throughout history to the rights of people with disabilities?
  • How is the disability rights movement like the civil rights movement? How is it different?
  • Why was Justin Dart so important to policy related to the disability rights movement?

Discussion Questions for Saying It Like It Is Unit

  • Why is good communication important?
  • What is your favorite way to communicate and why?
  • What is your least favorite way to communicate and why?
  • What would you like to improve about the way you communicate?

Discussion Questions for Getting Help Unit

  • Do you ask for help when you need it? Why or why not?
  • What is the most difficult thing about asking for help?
  • Who do you most often ask for help? Why?
  • Who can you ask for help as you begin to move from high school to adult life?
  • What do you currently need help with?

2. Assign a "Youthhood Poll"

The Youthhood homepage has a new poll question every few weeks. Youth must be logged in to vote on a poll. See About the Youthhood Poll for more information.

3. Assign "My Youthhood" Activities

Here at The Youthhood we’ve designed numerous online activities to help youth build a strong foundation of knowledge and to apply the material on the Web site to their own life. These include the Private Journal, Activities Folder, Life Map, and Class Notebook and are part of the "My Youthhood" menu youth see when they log in. See Online Activities for more information.

Click here to Preview Online Activities in The Government Center.

4. Assign Other Web Sites to Explore

There are some terrific Web sites available for youth to learn more about the topics covered in The Youthhood. You may wish to assign youth the task of exploring some of these Web sites.

Click here to Preview Web Sites Linked in The Government Center.

5. Assign Hands-On Activities

In addition to the existing materials on the site, you might create additional real-world, hands-on activities so that youth can see the concepts in action. The following are examples of hands-on activities you might assign youth in The Government Center:

  • Split youth into groups and have them research your state’s laws and regulations related to their rights as teenagers. Ask each group to research their rights in one of the following areas: at school, at home, in the community, and in the juvenile corrections system.
  • Set up scenarios to help youth role-play aggressive, assertive, and passive responses to others (see Role-Playing and Communication activity to get started with this).
  • Help youth learn and understand a procedure for getting the help they need – whether at school, at home, in the community, or within the service system. Have them list what kind of help they may need as they transition from school to adult life and develop a list of contacts who can help them.
  • Instruct youth to read about the history of the Disability Rights Movement and compare it with the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.

Developing a Lesson Plan

We’ve provided some tips on how you might incorporate the interactive features with the content pages and your own supplemental activities to optimize learning for youth. See Developing a Lesson Plan.

Web Resources

Here are additional online resources for you as the Youthhood Guide to learn more about the topics presented within each unit of The Government Center. Titles with "(PDF)" are links to PDF documents, and require Adobe Acrobat Reader (free) to download.

Knowing Your Rights and Responsibilities

Knowing Your Rights - Disability

Saying It Like It Is

Getting Help

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