The Library of Congress Educational Outreach team has featured many historical science primary sources in our blog posts and primary source sets for educators. We also know that many teachers are looking for materials relating to current scientific issues, and we’ve found amazing resources on current issues in science in an unexpected place: Congress.gov.
The place to go to access information on the day-to-day activities of the legislative branch of government, Congress.gov has links to bills, reports, and other materials. Not sure where to start? Here are some suggestions:
Explore the various committees within the Senate and the House. Though many of the committees deal with science related issues, obvious places to start your search are with the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee and the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation committee. The committee home pages include information on legislation on the committee’s agenda. Committee hearings often include testimony of experts interested in a specific bill. Testimony may include links to written statements and reports, including the latest research related to the bill under review, and links to other resources.
- Explore the hearings for the previous six months to find a topic of interest.
- Explore the hearing charter (House) or hearing summary (Senate) to see what was discussed.
- Review the witness list and determine why these people were called to testify. What is each witnesses opinion on the bill in question? After reading the testimony and other materials what more do you want to know?
Want to find bills on a topic? The search box on the Congress.gov home page allows users to search legislation back to 1989. For example, search for “invasive species,” selecting “all legislation” using the pull-down box to the left of the search box. Use the “Sort by” pull down box just above the list of results to sort by date of introduction, date of latest action on the bill, title or bill number. Click on the bill number to learn more about the bill, its status and any related bills. Also included in the bill information is a link indicating if the bill has been mentioned in the Congressional Record, which documents activity on the House and Senate floors.
Encourage students to:
- Search the Congressional Record to find discussions on scientific issues. Make sure to read the extension of remarks made at the end of the session where members honor a specific person or highlight a specific issue.
- Find out if their member has spoken out on an area of scientific interest or has spoken for or against a bill of interest. Evaluate the member’s statement and explain whether or not they agree with the member’s statement.
- Use Congress.gov to see if their member of House or Senate has sponsored any science related bills.
- Review the list of bills sponsored by their member, choose one to review, decide if they are for or against the bill, and write the member to state their opinion. They may share responses they receive.
Support your students as they explore Congress.gov to see what science topics are being discussed by Congress, and let us know what they discover!