Best Free Educational Site for All Ages – Ben’s Guide to U.S. Government for Kids

As soon as your child starts kindergarten, the school system starts teaching them about our country and its government and they keep at it until the kids graduate. But finding information that helps kids understand these concepts isn’t so easy, especially for the younger students. “Ben’s Guide To U.S. Government For Kids”, http://bensguide.gpo.gov, is the first place you should turn to no matter what the age of your student. Put out by the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, this site has clearly chosen writers who understand the learning capabilities of the ages they are writing for. The American Library Association’s Notable Children’s Web Sites Committee selected Ben’s Guide as a Notable Children’s Web Site in 2000 and the Philadelphia Inquirer recommended that “any virtual government tour” start with Ben.

The site has four separate levels of explanation, broken down by grade level: K-2, 3-5, 6-8, and 9-12. There is also an area for parents and teachers. All levels include information on “Our Nation,” and explanation of our government, games and activities, and a glossary. The Games and Activities section includes both printable and interactive activities.

For the K-2 students, Ben’s Guide explains things on the simplest level, utilizing many graphics and tying the instruction in with ways the students are learning other things. Rather than have a glossary listing of words alone, the site uses a graphic alphabet. Click on any letter and get one word that is explained. For example, “K” is for king; “Q” is for quill and “E” is for eagle. The section titled “Your Neighborhood” utilizes a graphic showing a post office, fire station, school, police station and hospital. Students can click on any of the buildings to get a simple explanation of what is done in each building. But the site does not talk down to students. Juries are explained in the “Ben’s ABC” section and the section titled “Our Government” explains the three different branches of government.

Students in grades 3-5 are introduced to “How Laws Are Made,” “Historical Documents,” “Election Process,” and “Citizenship.” Concepts introduced in the earlier grades are expanded on. “Your Neighborhood” becomes “Your Neighborhood and Beyond” for this age group, twenty-one additional symbols of our country are introduced, and the difference between state and federal government is explained. Beginning with this age level, students are also offered links for additional information on every subject.

When students reach grades 6-8 more detailed explanations are given. The exact passage of a law is tracked and students can even see how an actual bill progressed from bill to law. A quick facts section is available that gives kids that types of basic facts often needed on school work, such as the highest and lowest points in our country, the population and the national motto. Students can also access the same types of data for each state. At this age level, students are also directed to more outside sources for additional information on given topics.

High school students may find the graphics a bit juvenile, but the information provided is not. Here students will even more detailed information on all subjects, more outside links, and information on new topics not yet introduced. The high school student can read about The Federalist Papers and learn how to register to vote. This level also includes information on the National High School Debate Topic. The current school years’ topic is shown as well as those for previous years as well as the resolutions for those topics. For the high school students, this site may be more of a starting off point, rather then a place to get everything you need and the Games and Activities pages are not a challenge for most students this age.

The Parents and Teachers section is primarily a reference page offering links to other government sites for kids and parents and curriculum links for teachers.

Make Ben’s Guide To U.S. Government For Kids your first stop the next time your kids are studying our government and you will probably be able to get all the information they need in one stop.

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