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Tip of the Week: Poly Sci Nerd Goodness

legex screenshot

Yes. I am a poly sci nerd. Love elections. Love debates. Love the data. So meeting in DC this last week was . . . awesome.

And this morning, I ran across LegEx. A great way to close out a Poly Sci nerd week.

Short for Legislative Explorer and maintained by the University of Washington Center for American Politics and Public Policy, the site is a interactive visualization that allows you and your students to explore actual patterns of lawmaking in Congress. The graph provides a great way to get the big picture while providing opportunities to dig deeper. Compare the bills and resolutions introduced by Senators and Representatives and follow their progress from the beginning to the end of a two year Congress. Go back in time and compare / contrast different years, bi-partisan vs. partisan, parties, or House vs. Senate.

You can filter your views by session, topic, type of legislation, chamber, party, member, or even search for a specific bill. You can zoom in and out to focus on a specific committee. You can also click on individual bills in the graph to get basic data – the box then hyperlinks out to the Congress.gov site for specific info.

Screen Shot 2014-07-11 at 10.45.10 AM

Start browsing through the tool and ideas for classroom use are gonna just start popping out at you:

  • Which video below depicts what many are calling the new “Do-Nothing Congress?”
  • Which session passed the most legislation? Why did that session have such success?
  • Why has the Don-Nothing Congress struggled to get laws passed? Do they not want laws to pass?
  • What clues exist in these two videos that would help you put dates on each?
  • What was the relationship between the president and Congress in each of the periods shown?
  • What patterns can you detect in each video? What do the patterns tell us?

(FYI. I edited your screen view a bit to hide dates, etc. In the full web app, this stuff is pretty obvious.)

This seems like a great way to create problems for your kids to solve using evidence – all things aligned to the Common Core, the NCSS College, Career, and Civic Life standards, and the ESSDACK C4 Framework.

Legislative Explorer draws from an underlying relational database that includes information about the legislative histories, topics and sponsors of more than 250,000 bills and resolutions (1973-present). The database is updated nightly to reflect changes in the status of current bills and uses data from:

Are you super poly sci nerdy? More detailed descriptions of the data sources and bulk downloads are available online.

Learn more about the legislative process using the links below:
2 Comments Post a comment
  1. I am a HUGE poli-sci nerd! Leg/Ex is awesome…I can’t believe I haven’t run onto this yet! Thanks for the heads up!

    July 11, 2014
    • glennw #

      It is very cool! I spent about an hour just playing around with it this morning . . . you know, for research purposes.

      Have fun!

      glennw

      July 11, 2014

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