At high noon on January 3, 2013, the 113th Congress of the United States convened for the first time. After congratulations, celebrations and swearings-in, the real work of making laws, spending money and shaping foreign policy began.
Even before this session, pundits and special interest groups have had lots to say about this Congress and what it should or should not do. How do we know what is really going on? Where are your students getting their information about Congress?
An excellent place to start is right from the source: Congress.gov. It’s a new public beta site for accessing free, fact-based information on the legislation and members of the United States Congress.
There is a lot going on in Congress, so here are a few suggestions for students to make it relevant at a variety of grade levels.
- Learn about and follow one of your senator’s or representative’s activities in the “Members” section. What subject of legislation does he or she focus on the most?
- Follow the progress of a bill or resolution using the Search box or one of the links under “Most Viewed Bills.” What do you think about this legislation? What has happened to it so far?
- Tell your senators and representatives what you think, using the “Contact Your Member” link in the “Members” section. Do you agree or disagree with how they are representing you and your family? What idea to you have to share?”
- Find out what’s happening in Congress today under “Current Legislative Activities.” If Congress isn’t in session, you can watch the most recent video. How does what you are viewing compare to what you experience from the media? Discuss the possible consequences of learning about the 113th Congress and its activities by relying solely on the media for information.
Tip for Teachers: Before working with students, learn your current congressional district number. (If it’s like mine, it may have changed.) One way is to scroll to the bottom of Congress.gov, click on House.gov, then enter your zip code in the upper right corner. You can also find your senators by clicking on Senate.gov.
We’d love to hear how you might use Congress.gov in your classroom. What questions might you ask your students to guide them?