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We the People The Citizen and the Constitution

“We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution” is an educational program developed by the Center for Civic Education, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization based in California. The program instructs students on the history and principles of American constitutional democracy. The primary goal of the program is to promote civic competence and responsibility among the nation’s elementary, middle, and secondary school students. The We the People program allows students to study the Constitution and the Bill of Rights in depth. What makes the program successful is the design of the instructional program, and its innovative culminating activity—the simulated Congressional hearing.

Simulated congressional hearings serve as the final assessment of the We the People program and provide an excellent opportunity for students to improve their public speaking—as well as their research and analytical skills—through demonstration and practical application of the knowledge learned through the curriculum.

Simulated congressional hearings also take on a competitive element. For classes at the middle and high school level, participants from each school can advance to regional and state level competitions. The high school champion class from each state is then invited to National Finals in Washington, D.C.

"This program empowers students to dig deeper into their understanding of Virginia history, analyze events that have shaped our nation, and embrace where we go from here. I’m consistently blown away by the knowledge, dedication, and professionalism of our students."
Maggie Jackson
Volunteer Judge

About the Curriculum

We the People: the Citizen and the Constitution textbooks and ebooks are available in Levels 1, 2, and 3, from the Center for Civic Education. We the People textbooks provide upper elementary, middle, and high school students with a course of instruction on the history and principles of our constitutional, representative democracy. Critical thinking exercises, problem-solving activities, and cooperative-learning opportunities help develop students’ intellectual and participatory skills and fosters attitudes needed to participate as effective, responsible citizens.

Each textbook is broken down into six curricular units, organized around essentials questions. Students who take part in organized competitions will be assigned to a particular unit along the following topics:

Unit 1
Level 2: What were the Founders’ basic ideas about government?
Level 3: What are the philosophical and historical foundations of the American political system?

Unit 2
Level 2: What shaped the Founder’s thinking about government? Level 3: How did the Framers create the Constitution?

Unit 3
Level 2: What happened at the Philadelphia Convention?
Level 3: How has the Constitution been changed to further the ideals contained in the Declaration of Independence?

Unit 4
Level 2: How was the Constitution used to establish our government?
Level 3: How have the values and principles embodied in the Constitution shaped American institutions and practices?

Unit 5
Level 2: How does the Constitution protect our basic rights?
Level 3: What rights does the Bill of Rights protect?

Unit 6
Level 2 What are the responsibilities of citizens?
Level 3: What challenges might face constitutional democracy in the 21st century?

Levels 2 and 3 of the We the People curriculum have been fully mapped to the Virginia Standards of Learning for middle and high school. 

Middle School SOL Correlations

High School SOL Correlations

We the People Competitions

We the People competitions in Virginia are for middle and high school We the People teams. Schools are encouraged to hold in-school competitions as practice for regional/qualifier and state competitions. Participation in a qualifying competition is required for high schools to compete at the state level. Schools may elect to compete in one of four qualifying competitions, held in December. The top 9 scoring high schools in the qualifiers and any participating middle schools are invited to compete in the state competition. The winning high school class represents Virginia at the We the People National Finals in April.

2023–24 Competition Dates


We the People High School Central VA Qualifier
Saturday, December 2, 2023
Randolph-Macon College, Ashland, VA

We the People High School Northern VA Qualifier
Saturday, December 9, 2023
Unity Reed High School, Manassas, VA

We the People Virginia Middle & High School State Finals
Saturday, January 27, 2024
Randolph-Macon College, Ashland, VA

Competition Questions

Competition Resources

A number of outstanding organizations have put together We the People resources linked below.

Emily Voss

Emily Voss comes to civic education from the museum world, where she was passionate about making museums relevant to the modern world. She currently serves as the Manager of National Programs for the Center for Civic Education. Prior to that, she served as the Education Director at the Robert H. Smith Center for the Constitution at James Madison’s Montpelier where she spent the past decade developing programs for adult professionals that invited engagement with America’s founding documents. She served as the Virginia State Coordinator of the We the People program for 10 years and is a co-founder of Virginia Civics. Emily holds a BA in History from Gettysburg College, and an MA in Museum Education from the Cooperstown Graduate Program (SUNY). She and her family currently reside in central Virginia.

Co-Executive Director & Chief Programs Officer

Jen Patja

Jen Patja has dedicated her career to strengthening constitutional self-government through her work with Virginia Civics, the Center for Civic Education, and Montpelier’s Robert H. Smith Center for the Constitution, where she served as Deputy Director. Jen is a co-founder of Virginia Civics, and serves as a House of Delegates-appointed member of the Virginia Commission on Civic Education, a state legislative commission. She is the producer and editor of “Rational Security,” a weekly foreign policy and national security roundup, and “The Lawfare Podcast,” a daily audio production in cooperation with the Brookings Institution. Jen has held teaching and research positions at the University of Virginia, most notably in Criminology and the school’s University Internship Program with the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service. She received her master’s in Sociology from the University of Virginia, and a bachelor’s in English from the University of California, Berkeley.

Co-Executive Director & Chief Operating Officer

Amelia Bochain

Amelia Bochain has devoted her professional life to effective social studies education that fosters civil discourse. As a classroom teacher for nine years, she implemented project-based learning that focused on civic engagement and encouraging effective discussion skills. She is particularly passionate about the We the People program, where she coached teams that placed in regional, state, and national competitions.

State Coordinator