Use the Activities
In Federal Courthouses and Post Offices: Symbols of Pride and Permanence in American Communities, students have examined federal services in three American cities and the role of the General Services Administration in constructing and maintaining the buildings that house those services. The following activities will help students better understand the operation of the U.S. court system and also consider what different building functions tell us about how a community’s needs change over the course of its history and how government adapts to those changes.Activity 1: The Federal Judicial System
Ask students to conduct research and then make a chart describing the different branches of the U.S. court system (U.S. Supreme Court, U.S. District Courts, and U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeals). The chart should explain briefly when and how each type of court was created, the types of cases heard by each court, where they operate, the number of judges for each, and the procedure for selecting judges. Next, ask students to gather information about their state’s court system and compare the federal and state judicial systems in terms of types of cases heard, how judges are selected, etc. Conclude the activity by discussing as a class why it is important to have federal courthouses throughout the country. The following websites provide useful information: Understanding Federal and State Courts and Federal Judicial Center.
Activity 2: The National Register of Historic Places
Ask students to visit the National Register of Historic Places website and then describe in their own words the process by which a building is nominated and listed. Next, tell students to read the online National Register nomination for the Pioneer Courthouse, the Byron R. White U.S. Courthouse, or the Gene Snyder U.S. Courthouse and Custom House. Students should then answer the following questions: What are the basic components of the nomination? Why do you think the nomination includes details on the building’s physical appearance as well as its history? Which criteria for listing did the building meet? Which area(s) of significance? Based on the nomination, do you agree that this building is eligible for listing in the NRHP? Explain your answer.
Next, students should research how historic buildings are recognized at the state and/or local level and discuss how the designation process differs from that of the National Register. Finally, the class as a whole can debate the value of documenting and officially recognizing historic resources.
Activity 3: What If . . .