4th Grade New York

Government and Citizens

This inquiry is an exploration into government that begins by looking at the historical roots of democracy in the United States and then focuses on state government. The inquiry features a case study of a piece of legislation, initiated by a class of New York State elementary school students that resulted in yogurt becoming the official state snack of New York. In examining the idea that we have a voice in our government, especially through state representation, students develop an argument supported by evidence that answers the compelling question “Why does New York have a state snack?”


Compelling Question:

Why Does New York Have a State Snack?

Staging the Question:

Brainstorm reasons why New York would have an official state snack.

Supporting Question Where does our government get its power?

Formative Task Write a paragraph that addresses the supporting question.

Sources Source A: Excerpt from The U.S. Constitution and You
Source B: Preamble to the United States Constitution


Supporting Question Why do we need government?

Formative Task Discuss the supporting question with a partner.

Sources Source A: “What Do Governments Do?” chart
Source B: Excerpt from New York City’s 2002 Smoke Free Air Act


Supporting Question How is our government organized?

Formative Task Complete a graphic organizer comparing the organization of the federal and New York State governments.

Sources Source A: “3 Branches of Government”
Source B: Excerpts from “Branches of Government in New York State”


Supporting Question How can citizens influence government?

Formative Task Write an editorial for your school’s newspaper making an argument for or against the following idea: Citizens can and should influence government.

Sources Source A: “Step Inside the Voting Booth” graphic
Source B: Yogurt for New York State Snack video
Source C: “Governor Cuomo Designates Yogurt as Official New York State Snack”

Summative Performance Task

Argument: Why does New York have a state snack? Construct an argument that addresses the compelling question using specific claims and evidence.
Extension: Debate the value of having a symbol or logo that represents the local community.

Taking Informed Action

Understand: Brainstorm issues or problems affecting the local neighborhood or community.
Assess: Identify ideas to solve one of these problems or issues.
Act: Identify a government official who could address this issue or problem and write a letter explaining the problem and ideas for solving it.