Secondary Lessons


Governance and Democracy

Guiding Question

What does it mean to live in a democracy?


Governments are made up of the people and institutions put in place to manage a country, nation or community and make decisions on behalf of citizens.


In this lesson, students analyze leadership styles and decision-making processes by participating in a space survival exercise. In groups, students communicate their opinions and consider others’ opinions, while reflecting on the collaborative process and power dynamics. Afterwards, students discuss government types around the world and how they differ with respect to decision-making processes and citizen rights and freedoms.


By the end of this lesson, students will be able to:

  • Use the inquiry process to analyze information and make judgements (in order to rank a list of items for
  • Communicate their opinions and listen to the views of others by collaborating with others in a team-building
  • Use the concept of political significance, to analyze power dynamics and different governance systems
    in societies (Citizenship Education Framework – Structures);
  • Understand the form of governance used in Canada;
  • Use the concept of political significance, to describe fundamental principles and values associated with democratic governance.


  • I can analyze information and make judgments in order to rank items of importance;
  • I can work effectively with my peers by communicating my opinions and listening to the views of others;
  • I can distinguish between different governance systems and the impact on power dynamics and the lives of citizens;
  • I can assess what it means to live in a democracy.


CHV2O: A1, A2, B1, B2, B3, A1.5, A2.1, A2.2, B1.2, B2.5, B3.2



The following activity aims to reveal various leadership styles and decision-making processes. Guiding questions:

  • What is the best way for people to make important decisions together?
  • What are the benefits and challenges of working in groups?

1. Read the following paragraph out loud to your students.

Space Survival

You are a member of a lunar exploration crew originally scheduled to rendezvous on the light side of the moon. Due to mechanical difficulties, your ship was forced to land at a spot some 320 km from the rendezvous point. During re-entry and landing, much of the equipment aboard was damaged and since survival depends on reaching the mother ship, the most critical items available must be chosen for the long journey. Your task is to rank these items according to their importance in aiding you, starting with “1” for the most important, to “15” for the least important. You should assume that your crew is your class, you have agreed to stick together and that all 15 items are in good condition.
(modified from “Exploration: Then and Now, NASA and Jamestown Education Module”)

2. Ask each student to take a few minutes to create criteria for interpreting and analyzing the information and then ask them to rank the items. Using Activity 3.1, students will record their choices in the left-hand column.

3. Divide students into groups and ask them to share their ranking criteria and individual choices with their group members. Afterwards, have each group collaborate on a set of criteria and rankings as a group. They should record the group rankings in the second column (group rankings).

Teacher Note: Alternatively, you could assign each group a particular governance model (autocratic, democratic or consensus) and evaluate the process, outcomes and feelings developed within the group.

4. Display a list of ‘expert’ rankings compiled by a team of scientists and engineers at NASA (Handout 3.2) on a slide deck or photocopy. Have students compare their individual and group answers and determine a score. For each item, have students mark the number of points that their score differs from the NASA ranking and then add up all the points. Disregard plus or minus differences. The lower the total, the better the score.

5. Have a follow-up discussion: How did your group determine the rankings? Was it consensus, majority-rule or did some group members take greater control? Did a clear leader emerge? Did you ensure all group members had a voice? How did your individual score compare to your group score? What are the strengths and limitations of working alone versus with a group?


1. Explain to students that the work of any government is to make decisions on behalf of citizens. The degree to which citizens have access to power, the rights and freedoms they have and whether their opinions are heard, depends on the type of governance system used.

2. Using Slide Deck 3 and/or the ‘Government and Democracy’ video review the role of government and different governance systems. Questions to guide discussion and instruction:

  • What words come to mind when you think of the word ‘government’
  • What is the role of government? How does it affect you?
  • What types of governments exist around the world and how do they differ?
  • What type of government does Canada have?

Key terms: autocracy, dictatorship, oligarchy, democracy, monarchy, constitutional monarchy, republic, consensus, parliamentary democracy.

While reviewing government types, have students organize the information in a graphic organizer. Students can select their own categories or you can provide guidance (Exemplar 3.4).

For example:

  • How many people have access to power?
  • How are leaders chosen?
  • Are citizens involved in decision-making?
  • Is there rule of law?
  • Is there a constitution?
  • What rights and freedoms do citizens have?

2. Introduce Handout 3.3 and explain that there are several guiding principles that act as the foundation of a democracy.

3. Divide students into groups and assign each one of the democratic principles. Each group will create a scenario for when the principle is being upheld and one for when the principle is being denied and present it to the class through a skit or verbal presentation.


Have a brief closing discussion about governance and democracy, or ask students to write a reflection on one or
more of the following questions.

  • Which democratic principle do you think is the most important and why?
  • While reflecting on the list of democratic principles, which principle do you experience most personally? Which seems most evident or most applicable to your life?
  • What does it mean to you to live in a democracy?


A) Self-assessment: Have students evaluate how they worked within their groups. What strengths did they bring to the group task? What areas could they improve upon?

B) Exit Card: What questions about governments or democracy do you have that were not answered in this lesson? What more do you want to know? What more would you inquire about?

C) Formative assessment: Ask students to find one example of a current event in the news that shows that democratic principle being upheld and one example where a principle is being denied.


  • Slide Deck 3: Government and Democracy [PPT]
  • Activity 3.1: Space Survival – Ranking Chart [PDF] [Word]
  • Handout 3.2: Space Survival – Ranking of Items by Experts [PDF]
  • Handout 3.3: Principles of Democracy [PDF]
  • Exemplar 3.4: Comparing Different Government Types [PDF]

Download Lesson (PDF)