21st Century Integration Model

Title: Money and Politics
Subject: Social Studies
Grade Level: 9 through 12
See Voting Bubble Map, an example
of student project.

Lesson Summary

This original lesson by PBS looks at the relationship between politicians and special interest groups. Students are introduced to campaign finance in this role play simulation consisting of three "rounds". These three rounds cover direct democracy, campaign finance, and special interests. Upon completing these role playing exercises, students will be introduced to a short clip on special interest groups and then be asked to complete an online simulation with a partner, in which they will cast their vote on an amendment. They will organize this information using bubbl.us and research the effect of special interests on legislation using Maplight. This lesson, with the extension, will take approximately 2 to 3 class periods.

Original Lesson Plan

Original Objectives

Students will understand the process that takes place between a constituency and a candidate for public office. Students will assess and personally experience the strategies that are required to effectively deal with special interest groups and fundraising requirements. Students will analyze the contrast between direct democracy and the influence of money on decision making and campaigning. Students will understand the relationship between "interest" and "money" in modern American politics.

21st Century Skills Integration Objective(s)

Students will demonstrate critical thinking skills by organizing their reactions to the opinions of constituents and organizations. Students will demonstrate collaboration skills by working in groups and reaching a consensus on how to vote on an amendment. Students will demonstrate ICT Literacy skills by creating and organizing a mind map.


  1. Ask students to share their reactions to the role play experience in the original lesson and the importance/influence of money in the political process.
  2. Share the video "Understanding Representative Democracy" with students, particularly the section titled "Representing Constituents". Former and current members of congress speak to this issue and its influence on their decision making processes.
  3. With a partner, students should then launch the interactive feature "How a Member Decides to Vote" and a new mind map within bubbl.us. With this map students will be asked to organize their responses to each request made by a constituent or organization. Students will create a bubble for each individual and place it below how that person swayed the students to vote (see student example). Each individual will fall under one of three categories. Each individual can be generated as a "child" of one of the three categories. Students then use this information to compare the advantages and disadvantages of passing this amendment (see student worksheet). They are asked to share their reactions to satisfy constituents and organizations. This lesson can also be extended using the tool, Maplight. This organization attempts to shed light on the connection between money and politics by showing the connections between interest groups, legislators, and bills. H.R. 5684 - Oman Free Trade Agreement is a good example to use with students as it shows a very recognizable list of contributors. Clicking on the tabs "Votes" and "Timeline of Contributions" shows how donations sometimes demonstrate patterns based on opportunities to vote. This is a fairly advanced tool but can generate a great deal of discussion and opportunity for debate.


See the Amendment Worksheet Mind Map.