“Ben’s Guide to the U.S. Government,” a service of the U.S. Government Publishing Office, presents educational content for children and adults of all ages on the workings of the U.S. Government and U.S. history, with a focus on civics. Recently redesigned, the site features all new site content, a device-friendly infrastructure, and a modernized look and feel that has been optimized for an intuitive learning experience.
Ben’s Guide has three levels of Learning Adventures: Apprentice (ages 4-8), Journeyperson (ages 9-13), and Master (ages 14 and up). These levels teach the content using appropriate terms and intricacies based on the particular age range. The levels are named as a historical reference to the longstanding apprentice program that is still in place at GPO today. The inspiration for the Ben character comes from Founding Father, Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790), who was also an apprentice and printer. Benjamin Franklin also drafted and distributed historical documents during the early years of our Nation. For these reasons, he is an especially important figure at GPO, and his legacy of publishing information truly lives on in what we do today.
The site has other great features too. An interactive game, Branch-O-Mania, is available, which is not only fun, but educational, and tests knowledge of the three branches of the U.S. Government. Educators, parents, and students can also access free, printable activities that include Word Searches and Crossword Puzzles for various age ranges. Also included is a site glossary that includes over 80 terms and definitions related to the U.S. Government, as used on the website.
In 2013, GPO signed an official partnership with the American Association of School Librarians (AASL). Under the terms of the partnership, AASL volunteer school librarians agreed to review the educational content on Ben’s Guide to the U.S. Government for age-appropriateness. In addition, they utilized their expertise in curriculum development and educational initiatives to develop lesson plans to complement Ben’s Guide content.
Through ongoing communication and coordination with GPO, volunteers provided feedback on the educational content (Learning Adventures) for the Apprentice, Journeyperson, and Master levels. They applied their knowledge of the presentation of information and instructional design to the specific age levels to improve and enhance comprehension of the material.
Select volunteers went the extra ‘knowledge’ mile and created lesson plans related to the content of Ben’s Guide. Educators can not only use the new Ben’s Guide to the U.S. Government in an educational setting, but can also consult ready-made lesson plans to integrate into their course curriculum. These lesson plans follow a structured rubric that sets forth the elements, standards, scenario, overview, assessment, and instructional plan. Lesson plans submitted by volunteers were reviewed and vetted by AASL before being officially accepted and published.
The lesson plans are archived and available on Ben’s Guide and at the Standards for the 21st-Century Learner Lesson Plan Database site. The AASL lesson plans are arranged into three groups: grades K-5, grades 6-8, and grades 9-12. All of the lesson plans are freely-available to the public and can be accessed and incorporated into the classroom setting.
Throughout 2016 and beyond, GPO will continue to enhance the site with new features, design enhancements, games, and Learning Adventures, which is all heavily based on user feedback. Send your thoughts to GPO using our feedback form. We look forward to hearing from you about how we can continue to improve this important, free educational resource.