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The Center for the Study of Federalism (CSF), a respected academic organization, seeks to make up to three awards in the amount of $2,500 each for middle-school and high-school unit plans that advance the teaching and understanding of federalism as a principle and process of U. S. politics and government.

Federalism is a multi-faceted concept that is often misunderstood as either states’ rights or federal power. Federalism is about balancing both. In broad terms, federalism involves balancing opposite forces such as national and state concerns, unity and diversity, centralization and decentralization. Applicants must incorporate content consistent with the definitional article “What is Federalism?” in their unit plan. This article can be found on the Exploring Federalism Page on the CSF website.

The award theme “Does Federalism Still Matter?” encourages educators to design units that engage students in exploring the continuing relevance of federalism. Court decisions are only one way to assess federalism’s relevance. Students should be able to research, analyze, and assess the continued relevance of federalism in one or more of the following areas: public opinion and media attention, the platforms and organizational structure of political parties and interest groups, election campaign speeches and strategies, the roles of states and localities in the federal public policy-making process and in federal policies such as health care, intergovernmental relations in policy implementation, comparative state politics, state and local policy responses to contemporary public problems, independent state policy initiatives such as marijuana legalization, and/or, of course, judicial federalism and judicial review by both state and federal courts, including the increasing trend of state lawsuits brought against federal policy on federalism grounds. We are looking for unit plans that advance student learning in one or more of these areas.

Applicants may approach this subject area from one or more different perspectives, including but not limited to a particular policy area (e.g., education or environmental policy); intergovernmental lobbies in the policy-making process; the rise of federal mandates on state and local governments; intergovernmental cooperation and conflict in policy implementation; federalism policy debates (e.g., over Obamacare, federal-state marijuana laws, Common Core Standards, gun regulations, or drinking-age limits).

Whatever the perspective, we are looking for unit plans that enable students to grapple with issues relating to the continuing relevance of federalism as a political principle and process.

Please note: This is an award for existing classroom-tested unit plans, not a grant to develop plans. Lesson plans in the unit may be delivered in (1) a limited time frame such as a week or (2) as a recurring theme over a semester or year.


Applicants must be educators with a firm mastery of content, the classroom, and curriculum standards. Applicants do not have to be classroom teachers, but their unit plans must be field tested in the classroom before submission. Plans should be adaptable by other teachers across the nation, not limited to application in a single state.

Unit Plan Format

Applicants must be educators with a firm mastery of content, the classroom, and curriculum standards. Applicants do not have to be classroom teachers, but their unit plans must be field tested in the classroom before submission. Plans should be adaptable by other teachers across the nation, not limited to application in a single state.

Evaluation Criteria

  • Advances the teaching and understanding of federalism as an enduring principle of American governance
  • Relevant framework for politics and public policy consistent with CSF’s mission
    and the views expressed in the article “What is Federalism?”
  • Content rich, conceptually well-grounded, and factually accurate and supported subject matter and resources
  • Realistic objectives for grade level and time allotted
  • Effective and engaging instructional strategy
  • Assesses student achievement of unit goals and lessons objectives
  • Replicability (including alignment to Common Core, C3 Standards, or other standards)
  • Organized and presented consistent with CSF Unit and Lesson Plan format
  • Plans are well written and adhere to rules of writing style and bibliographic citation
  • Ready to teach including all referenced student resources/material


  • Submission deadline: July 15
  • Decision deadline: October 15

Application Packet

Applicants should submit an application that includes the following:

  1. A unit plan of at least five to seven lessons;
  2. An assessment report indicating how the unit plan was used in class, the results of that classroom use, and the modifications of the unit plan based on its assessment results;
  3. Samples of student work from at least five students;
  4. A recent résumé or C.V.; and
  5. Two letters of recommendation: one from a content specialist; the other from a   school administrator such as the department chair or school principal.

Inquiries and Submission

Applications should be submitted online to Dr. Thomas Vontz, professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction and director of the Master of Arts in Teaching program at Kansas State University, For inquiries, please contact Dr. Schechter.

Publication and Dissemination

The Center for the Study of Federalism will publish awarded units plan on its website; this is both a benefit and condition of the award. The Center reserves the right to work with the unit author to edit the content and style of the unit for publication on our website. By accepting this award, the unit author agrees to work with the Center on revising the unit for publication. The author also acknowledges that the unit becomes of the property of the Center for the Study of Federalism. Publication elsewhere must receive the prior approval of the Center for the Study Federalism and must acknowledge the Center’s award.

Unit and Lesson Plan Format

Developer’s Name: Be sure to include your full name and affiliation. 

Essential Question: The entire unit should address this question. For example, why do states matter?

Course And Grade Level: Middle school or high school.

Unit Rationale: Why is this unit important, engaging, and interesting? How will it deepen students’ understanding of federalism? How is this unit consistent with principles of effective instruction?

Unit Standards Connections: What specific national content and curriculum standards are addressed in this unit? Examples include: National standards in History, Geography, Economics, Civics and Government; National Council for the Social Studies Curriculum Standards; Common Core Standards; College, Career, Civic Life (C3) Standards.

Unit Objectives/Goals: What will students learn? 

Overview Of Unit: This section contains the lesson plan titles. Give careful attention to the sequencing of these titles. Please include a one-sentence annotation for each lesson title so users understand the logic behind your sequence and the key content covered.

Unit Resources: What resources are required to teach this unit? The Unit Plan should contain a listing of all readings to be used by the students. All readings should be electronically available as scanned documents or through links.   

Lesson Plans: The lesson plans must follow the format provided below. Lessons may be back-to-back (sequential) over one or two weeks, or interspersed across various historical periods or topics. 

Lesson Plan Format:

  • Lesson title or question
  • Possible discussion questions
  • Terms to know
  • National standards addressed
  • Learning Objectives
  • Procedure
    • Opener
    • Development
    • Closing

Unit Assessment
: Provide appropriate assessment tools (e.g., test, rubric, project checklist) that will be used throughout the unit to evaluate student learning.

Unit Bibliography: Place the bibliography after the last page of the unit.

Unit Appendix: Appendix materials include lessons worksheets, resources, and other lesson-based materials (maps, lists of artifacts, concept analyses, and completed decision maps, etc.).

Source: This Format was adapted with the assistance of Thomas S. Vontz (School of Education, Kansas State University) from Charles S. White, “Lesson Plan Format” and “Unit Assignment,” School of Education, Boston University, revised 2015.

Awards Given

The first Award will be announced as soon as possible.