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Citizen Petition Classroom Activities | Wisconsin Historical Society

Classroom Material

Citizen Petition Classroom Activities

Activities, vocabulary, discussion questions, and primary sources for using petitions with your students.

Citizen Petition Classroom Activities | Wisconsin Historical Society

Learning with Citizen Petitions

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Petition for ratifying a treaty with the Dakota Indians

Petition of Citizens of Milwaukee County urging the passage of a resolution praying Congress to ratify the Treaty lately made with the Dakota Indians

Wisconsin citizen petitions provide opportunities for students to learn about the past through primary source documents. These lesson plans were designed to help students meet and exceed Wisconsin state standards. By analyzing petitions students will gain insight into issues that affect the rights and responsibilities afforded to all US citizens.

These lesson plans were developed by a licensed Wisconsin educator and contain activities, vocabulary, discussion questions, and digitized primary source documents for use with your students. Please feel free to modify any part of it for use in your classroom.

Language note: Primary source materials such as petitions, letters, and diaries capture history as it happened, and many customs, terms, social mores, and attitudes that are considered offensive now were commonplace at the time. Please read through primary source material before assigning it to your class. 

Relations between Native Americans and White Settlers in Wisconsin  (Grades 3-5, and 6-8)

Students will be asked to analyze five different petitions from the 19th century that relate to the relationship between Native Americans and white settlers in Wisconsin. They will work in small groups to come to their own conclusions and then they will have a full class discussion to synthesize their thoughts. 

African-American Enfranchisement in Wisconsin (Grades 3-5, and 6-8)

Students will be asked to analyze seven different petitions from the 19th century that relate to the struggles of African-Americans in Wisconsin. They will work in small groups to come to their own conclusions and then they will have a full class discussion to synthesize their thoughts.

The Death Penalty in Wisconsin (Grades 9-12)

Students will read an article related to the history of the death penalty in Wisconsin and then they will supplement the reading with the analysis of three 19th century petitions arguing for and against the death penalty in Wisconsin. Students will then be divided into groups and they will debate the death penalty in Wisconsin. 

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