SCOTUS, Civics, & Law Summer Opportunities for Educators

“This has been a truly miserable winter,” said America.  If you’re like us – you’re already looking towards the summer months, not only to find a reason to get up each arctic morning, but also to start planning how you’ll spend your break.  This post is dedicated to the educators out there who have the luxury of squeezing in a week or two at a professional development, seminar, or summer institute to prove you’re actually a “lifelong learner.”

 If you’re looking to dazzle your administrators while simultaneously having a great experience where you learn from sterling experts in the field of government, law, and civics – we have some recommendations for you.

Street Law Supreme Court Summer Institute

Spend 5 days in Washington, D.C. – two of which are in the SCOTUS – with the awesome Street Law team, headed up by Lee Arbetman. Over the course of the five days you’ll learn from experts in the legal world, like founder of SCOTUSblog Tom Goldstein, writer Lyle Denniston, professors from Georgetown, Harvard, and George Washington University, SCOTUS reporters like NY Times writer Adam Liptak, former attorneys general, former SCOTUS clerks, and Supreme Court advocates.  The sessions usually take place at Georgetown Law, which is across the street from the institute hotel (very convenient), and a Starbucks (necessity).  This is a short walk to the SCOTUS, which is nice when you’re melting in steamy D.C. whilst trying to look professional.  One of the days in the SCOTUS was for a tour and the other was spent listening to decisions.  This tends to be an ideal time to be inside the Court as big decisions typically come down in late June.  That evening, teachers are hosted by a Supreme Court Justice and the Historical Society inside the Supreme Court for an intimate cocktail party.  No, you can’t hug them or Instagram the experience.  Don’t even ask.  Towards the end of the institute, four brave souls will get to play SCOTUS advocates in a moot court simulation that takes place in a courtroom built to look just like the real SCOTUS.  If asked – do it.  It’s awesome, in a jumping-out-of-a-plane-terrified kind of way, and experts will prepare you.

We are effusive about Lee and the Street Law team because they deserve gushing praise.  You’re hard-pressed to find a summer PD as experiential and jaw-droppingly awesome as this summer institute.

Dates:  Two sessions; June 19-24 & June 26-July 1; Application due: March 17th, Cost to teachers: $150-600, depending on accommodation preferences.

Gilder Lehrman, The Role of the Supreme Court

We wrote a post recently about our experience at this seminar.  It was a game-changer in that it led to the union of all the teachers who created this website.  We came out of the experience smarter, sharper, and very close.  I think this could be said of many PDs, depending on the group you end up with, but this was a very special and unique experience.  Gilder Lehrman is the Rolls Royce of summer PD experiences.  The topics are attractive, the instructors are trailblazers in their fields of history (Eric Foner, Larry Kramer, Jeffrey Rosen, Akhil Amar, to name a few), and the accommodations are top-notch.  This seminar was held at Stanford Law School in Palo Alto, California.  We stayed in the law school dorms (nicer than most apartments), ate in the dorms (deal with it), and were taken to watch a federal trial and listen to a judge talk about the federal appellate system.  The guest speakers were fantastic, our T.A. superb, and the GL staff great.  It was probably the most challenging institute in that the expectations of the teachers were just as high as they are for first year law students.  But, the experience will make you a smarter, better teacher.  Cara reports using her notes from that institute in her curriculum more than any other institute.

Dates:  July 20-26; Application deadline:  February 14, 2014;  Cost to teachers: Almost nothing.  Boarding, meals, and a $400 stipend towards travel are all provided to teachers who attend.

Gilder Lehrman: The Constitution 3.0 America’s Unfinished Constitution

We hope to tell you what this seminar is like by the end of the summer.  This is a seminar some of us at SB applied for.  It’s held at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, PA.  Originally it was entitled The Constitution 3.0 and was to be taught by founder Jeffrey Rosen.  We got an email recently that Mr. Rosen’s schedule prohibits him from hosting but GL is replacing Rosen with Akhil Reed Amar.  Upgrade?  It is for us.  We’re taking Amar’s Yale MOOC right now so we’re psyched to get the real rather than virtual student experience.

Dates: July 13-19; Application deadline: February 14, 2014; Cost to teachers: Almost nothing.  Boarding, meals, and a $400 stipend towards travel are all provided to teachers who attend.

C-SPAN Summer Educator’s Conference

If you like short and sweet, this conference is for you.  It’s a 2-day seminar at C-SPAN’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., across the street from the Capital building.  The C-SPAN Education Team will walk you through how to integrate technology into your curriculum using C-SPAN videos, Deliberations, lesson plans, bellringers, and civics materials.  The deluge of info given in such a short amount of time will make your brain hurt after this conference.  In no time, you’ll be clipping videos of Supreme Court Justices, Presidents, and Congress every day to show your students real-world examples of what you’re teaching and how tech-savvy you are.

The conference is held in C-SPAN’s offices so you’re bound to spot Congressional movers-and-shakers in the hallways after filming, or almost bump into a FOXNews guest bursting out of an elevator.  We’re looking at you, Michelle Bachmann.  You’ll definitely get to bend the ear of founder and political media icon Brian Lamb who pops in the conference to host his own Q&A with the teachers.  Mr. Lamb attends the conference dinner the first night and brings in amazing special guests in the field of history, civics, or law to speak.  This conference is also special in that it’s one of the few that offers a two-day institute solely to middle school teachers.

The C-SPAN Ed Team are amazing!  They’re incredibly engaging, curious, and eager to help Teachers.  You will not want to go home.  In case you don’t, they have summer Fellowship opportunities for teachers to work at C-SPAN HQ for four weeks.  Consider applying if you want to spend four weeks getting a true hands-on political media experience.

Dates:  Middle School Teachers July 7th-8th, High School Teachers July 10th-11th; Application deadline: April 4, 2014.  Cost to Teachers: Airfare to and from Washington, two nights’ hotel stay, and meals during the conference are all provided by C-SPAN.

American Bar Association’s Summer Institute for Teachers: Federal Trials and Great Debates in U.S. History

None of us have technically attended this institute but can speak for several fellow educators who rave about its awesomeness.  Their seminar also gives an up-close-and-personal experience taking teachers inside the Supreme Court but primarily focuses on unpacking three significant cases.  This year’s case studies include the Pentagon Papers, Olmstead v. U.S., and the Sedition Act Trials with materials prepared by the Federal Judicial Center.

Dates:  June 22-27, 2014; Application deadline: March 1, 2014; Cost to teachers: Costs for travel, lodging, and meal expenses will be reimbursed to Institute participants according to U.S. government per diem rates.

Got any others you liked/loved that you wish to recommend?  Email us at