Local Government Teaching Activities for Third Grade

City Hall.
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As they learn how local government functions, third-graders can link those lessons to everyday life through class activities. They can discover which services their community provides, examine local news, meet the people who make their town run or even visit city hall.

1 Learn About Local Services

Connect routine parts of your third-graders’ day to local government. Did they take a bath that day? The city provides the water. Did they travel on a street to get to school? The town likely built the roads. Have them brainstorm a list of services -- police, fire protection and snow plowing, for example -- to show that what they have learned touches their daily lives. They can also role play to remember the concepts better. Third-graders are expected to know about these services so that they can later differentiate between state, local and federal governmental roles, according to Michigan state education standards.

2 Use Local News

Hand out copies of a local newspaper and give the kids scissors, glue and poster board. Give them the mission to track down stories or photos of local officials or employees -- the mayor, a council member, a police officer, crossing guard or road crew. Have them use what they find to create a poster and write a description of how and why the person helps the community. They will learn about municipal jobs and appreciate these people more when they see them. Some students might have family members who work for local government, bringing the lesson even closer to home.

3 Invite Leaders In

To bring government inside the classroom and make it seem real, plan a municipal government day and invite city, village or town officials to visit. Before the mayor, fire chief or police officer arrives, have the third-graders think of questions to ask so that they learn what the person’s job entails. The Civics Institute, a local government curriculum project, notes that meeting local officials reinforces third-grade lessons in local government, while Ohio education standards recommend having the teachers record the answers so that students can review them later.

4 Take a Field Trip

To help your third-graders remember their local government lessons, take them on the road to cement the information in their memories. Set up a field trip to city hall, the courthouse, fire or police station or other local government facility. The city zoo -- also a municipal service -- makes a great, educational way to end the day. Kids will see how the government works from the inside, perhaps getting to sit in the mayor’s chair or ride on a fire truck.

Since 1988, Mary Thomsen has been working on the "Valders Journal," a Wisconsin weekly newspaper. Thomsen has won several awards from the Wisconsin Newspaper Association. She studied print journalism at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.